May 22, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 27 October 2011 11:12
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help parents choose what to watch. This week’s pick is a new film for the family, The Mighty Macs.The makers of The Mighty Macs are so eager to please they risk adding too much sugar to the recipe. This true story of the girl’s basketball team at Immaculata College is filled to the brim with good intentions, positive messages and well-meaning characters. And, from the opening credits, you know precisely where this movie is going to travel, what its characters will experience and how, in the end, everything will turn out okay.
Still, in the search for family-friendly entertainment, without worrying about what children may see or hear on screen, this reliable entertainment fills a need. It’s not easy for parents to choose current films they can trust and, today, a live-action “G-rated” film is as rare in Hollywood as an original story.
The Mighty Macs does not, however, offer originality. Films about sports teams — especially school teams — follow predictable patterns. We know, from the start, the coach will be well meaning and may need to learn a lesson or two. We recognize the team will include some who are not excited about the game until the magic moment when the coach breaks through. And watching every move will be the threatening voice of authority who could undermine the team at any time.
In this film, Cathy Rush (played by Carla Gugino) arrives on campus filled with enthusiasm for her opportunity to coach the failing girl’s basketball team. Never mind that the school has no gymnasium, few players and a cynical Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn). This coach-with-a-purpose intends to seize victory even if, at home, her new husband is less than supportive (another part of formula). Slowly, Rush works to win the confidence of her players, the support of her peers (the cheerleading nuns), the reluctant husband and, even, the nun-in-charge. Now all she needs is victory on the court.
As the coach, Gugino is given less a character to play than a series of messages and morals to deliver. Her motivation to coach gets lost in the shallow exploration of the women’s issues of the 1970s and the superficial look at her marriage. More interesting is the story arc of Marley Shelton as a young nun questioning her commitment to the church, partly because Shelton makes the most of every moment. And the great Ellen Burstyn — a joy to watch in any role — delivers just what we expect from her colorful character.
While the script by Tim Chambers efficiently covers the events, he should have spent more time exploring the lives of the girls on this landmark team. Only in the film’s final moments — when we learn what the actual team members accomplished later — do we fully appreciate what this experience must have meant. To appreciate the outcome, we need to better recognize the obstacles.
No matter how familiar, The Mighty Macs entertains, moves quickly and delivers the anticipated excitement at its conclusion. Never mind that we have seen it all before. These days, reliable entertainment for the family is so difficult to find that enduring the familiar is a small price to pay.
The Mighty Macs
* Content: Medium. The core story is an interesting account of an important chapter in the evolution of girl’s basketball.
* Entertainment: Medium. The natural appeal of the story makes for an entertaining and reliable family film.
* Message: Medium. The fundamental nutrition the movie offers emerges from the inherent power of its story and the “can do” optimism of its heroine.
* Relevance: Medium. Any opportunity to share a film with children is a welcome activity especially when it focuses on an interesting chapter in sports history.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: Medium. After you share this film, talk with your children about the changes in the world since the early 1970s, specifically in the opportunities for women in sports.
(The Mighty Macs is rated G and runs 102 minutes.)
2-1/2 Popcorn Buckets
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