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‘Mighty Macs’

Audience:
A-I – general patronage

 

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“The Mighty Macs” (Freestyle) is the fact-based story of a women’s basketball team from a Catholic college who, through the grit and determination of their rookie coach, got a shot at the national title.

This old-fashioned, family-friendly film is “Sister Act” without the singing, “Rocky” with basketballs, and “The Trouble with Angels” with Ellen Bursytn in the Rosalind Russell role of the mother superior.

The year is 1972, the feminist movement is picking up steam, and change is in the air. For Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino), 23 and recently married, this means searching for a role to play beyond that of dutiful housewife to her husband, Ed (David Boreanaz). A star basketball player herself, Cathy missed out on her own chance for glory, as her college eliminated the sport.

Against Ed’s wishes, Cathy takes a job at Pennsylvania’s Immaculata College (now University), run by the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The stern mother superior, Mother St. John (Bursytn), has no time for sports; she’s trying to keep the school afloat, fighting off appeals from the board and the Church to close its doors. Impatient and irritable, she gives Cathy free rein to build a team from scratch.

This is Cathy’s big chance and, although not a Catholic, she is determined to fit in and succeed, inspiring a ragtag group of girls to become a fighting force by believing in themselves. They practice despite not having a court, with improvised uniforms fashioned from nuns’ smocks.

Cathy’s faith never wavers, as she hands out “We Will Be #1” buttons all over town. Help arrives in the form of the youngest nun, Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton). Like Cathy, she is struggling with her vocation, trying to find her place in a traditional world. She also shares an interest in basketball. The two bond, and Sister Sunday becomes the assistant coach, drawing out the older nuns to cheer the team on at games.

Against all odds, the “Macs” of Immaculata College make their way to their sport’s first-ever national championship game. Cathy not only saves herself and her marriage, but the fortunes of the college – melting the cold heart of Mother St. John in the process.

Directed by newcomer Tim Chambers, “The Mighty Macs” is a feel-good movie offering lessons in friendship, teamwork, trust and perseverance. For the most part, Catholicism is treated with respect, but it serves more as a colorful backdrop than a source for commentary.

Sister Sunday provides some harmless comic relief. She lends Cathy a habit so they can qualify for free tickets on United Airlines. (“Second nun flies for free.”) Explaining her call to the religious life, Sister Sunday expresses her love for Jesus. “That whole Cana thing?” she observes, “Jesus just wanted everyone to have a good time.”

The entire family will have a good time at “The Mighty Macs.”

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G – general audiences. All ages admitted.

(By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service)

‘Footloose’

Audience:
O - morally offensive

 

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Wrong moves plague this teen dance film

According to the folks behind yet another Hollywood remake – this one of the 1984 teenage dance movie that made Kevin Bacon a star – it’s time once again to “kick off your Sunday shoes” and get “Footloose” (Paramount).

Despite lively direction from Craig Brewer and some spirited toe-tapping dance sequences, “Footloose” retains – and ramps up – the problematic message of the original. Namely, that teenagers must disobey their parents, break all the rules and follow their dreams, no matter the consequences.

It has been three years since a tragic car crash claimed the lives of five high school seniors in the small Southern town of Bomont. The teens had been drinking, doing drugs and engaging in some very dirty dancing.

One victim’s father, local Presbyterian minister Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid), spearheads legislation to ban public dancing and “lasciviousness” and impose an 11 p.m. curfew for all under the age of 18. The goal is to counter the “spiritual corruption” stemming from such “lewd behavior.”

Sounds perfectly reasonable. But teens will be teens, and Rev. Moore’s daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) supports an underground rebellion, engaging in as much illicit drinking, sexual activity and dancing as possible, all to such inspirational tunes as “Hey Mister, Won't You Sell Me a Fake ID?”

The only thing this movement needs to reach its tipping point is a charismatic leader.

Enter Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald), a Yankee from Boston who comes to live with his Bomont cousins after his mother’s death. With his styled hair, sunglasses, white T-shirt and perpetual pout, Ren puts on his best James Dean imitation. But this rebel has a cause: to flout Bomont’s rules and rally his fellow teens to open defiance.

“We don't have much time left,” Ren tells the City Council. “Our job as teens is to live, to play our music, to act like idiots.” He uses the Bible to challenge Rev. Moore, noting that David celebrated his love of God by dancing.

“Footloose” works hard to ridicule organized religion, which is portrayed as nothing more than a bunch of restrictive rules. The entire town gangs up on the good clergyman, including his normally supportive wife Vi (Andie MacDowell). Nonetheless, Rev. Moore is a sympathetic figure, saying, “I only want what every parent wants – for my kids to come home safe.”

The movie's skewed morality includes a “happy endin”" according to its own rules: Parents, leave your kids alone, let them be destructive, trust them to make mistakes – and then (and only then) will they return your love.

The film contains a negative portrayal of religion; acceptance of teenage drinking, drug use, sexual activity and reckless driving; a brutal assault; and a few instances of crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O - morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

(Reviewed by Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service)