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The Mighty Macs – Pop Culture in a Habit

The Mighty Macs
The Mighty Macs

I sent this review to the head of the Maximus Group (the Catholic marketing organization promoting the movie) asking for comments and any factual statements that needed correcting. The reply is in the comment section below this post.

Before starting this review which will be looking at the film from a Catholic perspective, I need to say that there are some positive things in the movie. The sisters are good people and their life (apart from one exception) is actually portrayed positively. The story is inspirational. If you want to read longer glowing reviews about the movie, they will surely be a dime a dozen so I'm not going to focus on those.

From a technical perspective the movie looks good. The campus is beautiful, the basketball games are exciting and the characters, the sisters especially, look natural and are portrayed positively.

A couple of non-content things that bothered me were that the inspirational scenes such as dropping all preconceived ideas in a collection basket and some of the other rah-rah moments with the girls seemed forced. I was reminded of Fireproof at times.

I also was disappointed that the movie was so focused on the coach and her assistant that the actual players all blurred together. One of the girls was poor and had to wear her brother's boots to school, one was planning on getting engaged and one was called Sharkey and scored most of the points. That's all I could remember about the girls and it left me without a real connection to the actual games. Maybe it's that the girls were “blended” characters instead of representing actual players that led to this lack of personality and empathy.

Now let's take a look at the actual content of the movie. First I'm going to ask you to set aside all the feel-good warm fuzzies about the story and focus on the actual message of the film. First, there is the uplifting “have trust in each other and have heart and you can do anything” theme. No problem here. Just about every underdog sports movie from Hoosiers to We are Marshall has this as a theme.

The problems lie in the other themes of the movie.

Back in 1940 Mortimer Adler wrote How to Read a Book. While it was specifically aimed at print, it can easily be adapted to film. Two of the rules are especially of interest when watching The Mighty Macs.

  • Mark the most important sentences in the book and discover the propositions they contain.
  • Locate or construct the basic arguments in the book by finding them in the connecting sentences.

Let's start with the opening scene which has Cathy Rush driving her red micro bus to the Macs campus to interview for the job as coach. She's listening to the news on the radio. The first story announced has to do with President Nixon and since he is never brought up again you can assume that it is used to set the time period of the film. The second story is about protests in Washington, D.C. for equal pay for women. This feminist goal is our opening introduction to the film and feminist themes run the length of the film so it is clear that, like the opening scene of Henry V, we are being provided with a lead in to the theme of the movie.

Once Cathy gets home and tells her husband that she got the job we find out that this was not something they had discussed and agreed upon but something that she had done in spite of whatever plans they had originally worked out for their marriage. She tells her husband that “I know you wanted to have a family but I really want to do this.” (I don't have the movie in front of me so that is a paraphrase) He is justifiably upset but the whole scene is set up to make us sympathetic to her and her dreams over her husband's outdated notions of having a family. Come on! She has dreams to live!

Just in case you didn't get the womyn power message from that outdated frying pan over the head, the film tosses in a few more:

  • From the trailer – Cathy Rush is “A woman ahead of her times”
  • From one of the players – “She already has a husband, why would she want to work?”
  • From another player who quits during a practice because of the coach's methods “This is so unlady-like.”
  • From her husband – “This (our marriage) isn't working out the way we planned.” Her response – “Well you're just going to have to adjust.”
  • From Cathy to her husband – “You'd rather I just sit at home all day while you travel the country?”
  • From her husband – “I travel to pay for this apartment and everything in it. What they pay you, that's not even legal (Remember the movie opening?) Most women, they would be grateful (for everything I do for you).” Her response – An incredulous “Grateful?!”
  • From the featurette about the film. The real Cathy Rush says approvingly “The girls at Immaculata bought into the idea that they could do anything.” In opposition to the norm of getting married and having a family.
  • Sister Sunday, while drinking with coach Cathy in a bar, tells Cathy she needs to tell her husband that she loves him. Great idea, but it's her husband who makes the first move by abandoning his archaic notions of family and leaving her a basketball and rose as a gift. It isn't until he decides to support her dreams that everything with their marriage gets hunky-dory again.

So back to How to Read a Book. We found the basic argument of the movie presented in the trailer, reiterated in the featurette by the real Cathy Rush, emphasized again in the opening scene and reinforced throughout the movie. We also found that all presentations of the modern feminist mind-set are presented positively and all traditional ideas about the role of women and family are presented negatively. Is this really the message that we as Catholics want to get behind? That dreams trump family? That family is of lesser worth than coaching? That traditional ideas about family and roles are really archaic and deserve to be portrayed in a negative way?

The subplot for the movie focuses on a young sister (Sister Sunday) who is about to complete her fourth year of study and has doubts about taking final vows. The fact that she doesn't even get a real name and doesn't have a “now you know the rest of the story” part at the end I think shows that she is completely fictional. If so then her place in the movie isn't based on real events so the directors could have done anything.  This could have been a compelling redemptive story line presented in contrast to Cathy's feminist driven motivations but instead it turns into a “Gee, this young sister doesn't have any of the outdated moral hangups like the other sisters do.” story line. For example:

  • The sister demonstrates proper defense technique by grinding her rear into the pelvis of a college guy that Cathy brought on to campus to help the team against school policy. When she's done she slaps him on his butt.
  • After winning a conference game Cathy and Sister Sunday go to a bar. Sister Sunday is wearing a ridiculous winter hat over her veil which she has tucked up under it. To Cathy's surprise, she takes of the hat with her veil and orders a beer. Wow, isn't that so cool! She's really with it. Then it gets worse. A local comes up to the table and starts hitting on them. He asks Sister Sunday if she's married and she says “You could say that.” The local asks her what her husband does and she replies “He's a carpenter and he's very good with his hands.” Cathy, whose neanderthal husband is an NBA ref, echoes Sister Sunday's comments. Isn't that so cool? A sister that can make sexual innuendo jokes about Jesus while drinking incognito in a bar! I sure am glad she's part of the movie because the positive portrayal of the sisters wouldn't have been complete without this bit of creepiness. This nice little scene is presented in contrast to the scene at the beginning of the movie when Mother St. John tells Cathy that she would be happy if “these activities (basketball) served to control the girls' hormones.”

Another problem with the film is the idea that lying for loyalty or some other “good” is fine because, well, it just is. No remorse, no guilt and you had better be supportive of the characters who do it because they are loyal and how else will they get to the championship? Have you no heart?

After a crushing loss, Cathy takes the team to a culvert and makes them run drills in the water late at night. Sister Sunday objects and tells her that its wrong but Cathy insists. The next morning Mother St. John confronts Cathy about breaking curfew and what she had the girls do. There isn't any indication that anything serious apart from verbal disapproval will result but Sister Sunday steps up and says it was her idea. Isn't that great? She lied to protect the coach from…nothing and said she had the idea for something she objected to the night before. While this may make everyone feel good, it certainly isn't Catholic morality and certainly goes against the vows she has taken to be part of this religious order.

To get to the national championship the team has to raise money. Unfortunately, they can't raise quite enough but the airline has a policy (these were still the good old days) of letting two sisters fly for free with the team. This allows for a Sister Act rip off where Coach Cathy gets to fly dressed as a sister. Okay everyone, clap and cheer because lying to the airline to cheat them out of their fair fare is fine because how else would the team get to the championship? If you aren't cheering, have you no heart?

There is also another bit of lying that you probably will miss. One of the girls tells Cathy that her parents object to her playing so she told them that she is the team nurse. At the end of the movie this girl gets playing time and takes off her “nurse” uniform which she was wearing to hide her team uniform. No objection is raised about that because, you know, we're talking DREAMS here and those trump everything including parents, husbands and religious obedience.

I don't typically write movie reviews and there are plenty of far worse movies out there. The only reason I took the time to write this is because this is being promoted in Catholic circles as a family-friendly, g-rated, positive-portrayal of sisters so we should all go spend money on it. The problem is that the themes running through the movie, in spite of the uplifting secular message of “live your dreams”, are contrary to Catholic teaching and as such don't deserve our support.




  1. Please let me know when the The Parish Book of Chant is available. Thank you.

  2. This is a very well written review. I had begun to think that critical thinking (a class we took at the Catholic high school I attended) no longer existed.

    Thanks again. I may see the movie but I will make sure to discuss the finer points with the grandkids.

  3. Good review. I may be wrong, but I *think* that it’s spelled h-a-b-i-t, without the double “b”, but if I’m wrong, just ignore! Thanks for keeping your eyes out for these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  4. One of the great, lynchpin virtues of America’s way of life is the freedom of expression we all enjoy and, in fact, are guaranteed. No meaningful discussion of issues – no promise of seeing the same landscape from different perspectives – would be possible without that freedom.

    That being said, I (we at The Maximus Group) believe it’s important that readers of this space understand that this review and the opinions stated in it do not reflect the collective perspective of the vast majority of Catholic influencers who have seen “The Mighty Macs” during an extensive round of pre-release screenings.

    “Friday night I attended the premiere of The Mighty Macs, which tells the story of Immaculata College’s improbable road to national fame in women’s basketball. I was welcomed on the red carpet by writer and director Tim Chambers of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. This story of story of faith and determination is inspirational. The family friendly film reminds us of the power of believing that we can achieve against seemingly insurmountable odds.” – Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia

    “A feel good movie for everyone.” – Sister Mary Ann Walsh, Director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

    “A good true story with a happy ending. It is a good wholesome story; rare these days, especially on film.” – Most Reverend James Johnson, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo.

    These and the scores of other positive comments from leadership around the country appear – from here, at least – to explain why longer, glowing reviews about the movie are, indeed, plentiful.

    Click here to read more: http://www.themightymacs.com/endorsements

    One of the most consistently heard comments about The Mighty Macs – coming from people who lived in the early 1970s – has been that the film is amazingly accurate in terms of its historical portrayal of the times. Tim Chambers set out to capture the history of that time – not only on the women’s college basketball court, but also in time.

    The focus on the coach was intentional. This movie is the Cathy Rush story. Chambers has stated many times that he posted a three-word “theme” at his desk – one he couldn’t avoid seeing and remembering as he developed the story and, ultimately, the screenplay.

    “Equality of dreams.”

    “Dreams are for everyone,” Coach Rush tells Trish Sharkey in the film. That is the real message – and the real focus – of The Mighty Macs. It does, indeed, feature nuns and the all-girls Catholic college they taught and lived at in the early 1970s. Chambers portrayed them as dealing with faults and struggles – just like every other human.

    And, yes, the players were “blended” because Chambers wanted to pay tribute to all three of Immaculata’s championship teams, not just the first. Cathy Rush coached all three of those teams, and “The Mighty Macs” is her story.

    Unfortunate public comments from you Ian color “The Mighty Macs” as something it is not – and never set out to be. No request from you to speak to Director Tim Chambers ever materialized. Such a request could have led to the kind of conversation from which this review could have measured the film with a figurative ruler exhibiting far more accuracy.

    Tens of thousands of people had the opportunity to prescreen “The Mighty Macs” at events much like the one where you saw the film. Those people all returned “screening evaluation cards” that included a request to rate the film’s value as an “overall entertainment experience” from 1 (low) to 10 (high).

    An overwhelming number of people rated this movie an “8” or higher in this regard – including you! Your objections appear to be founded in a significant misunderstanding of Chambers’ vision for the film – and no small lack of true historical perspective on the early 1970s and the culture of the time.

    We urge readers of this blog to search and read other reviews of the film – to not let one perspective overly influence their decision on whether so support a film that so many – in and out of the Catholic world – have found to be uplifting, inspirational and, yes, family friendly.

    • Hi Lisa, thank you for posting your thoughts. The interesting thing is that none of the endorsements or your own comments address the issues I brought up about the movie. It is a pro-feminist, anti-family film with lying seen as a good thing.

      I don’t consider sexual innuendo, nor the negative attitudes towards family to be “family-friendly” no matter how many times it is repeated. I didn’t need to speak with the director or any of the players. All I needed to do was watch the movie and pay attention to the real themes. Warm stories about rosaries and how the film affected the actors doesn’t change what the film says.

      The director did capture the womyn-power, down-with-traditional-family themes of the 70’s very well. The problem isn’t that he did. The problem is that a movie that is built on anti-Catholic themes is being promoted by Catholic organizations.

      RE: My Evaluation card. That was a completely dishonest comment on your part. I gave it an entertainment rating that was high but the rest of my view was negative because of the themes. If you are going to use my own comments as a defense of the movie, at least be honest about it.

  5. I understand the critiques, Ian, and agree that there were a couple parts in the film that made me uncomfortable–the “grinding” scene and the scene at the bar, in particular–but I think you’re being hyper-critical of the movie.

    I think you’re violating one of Mortimer Adler’s central rules in “How To Read A Book”, namely that you are to judge a book based on what it *is*, not what you want it to be. This means, for example, that we shouldn’t criticize a book on the sacraments because it doesn’t do justice to the Rosary–that wasn’t it’s intention.

    The Mighty Macs was meant to be an entertaining, uplifting, general audience film about basketball and hope, not a thorough exposition of the Catholic moral life.

    Now if the film was called, “The Mighty Macs: A Dogmatic Presentation of Catholic Moral Theology Produced by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith”, then we could critique it on legitimate grounds for not flawlessly presenting the faith.

    But since that’s not its primary message, critiquing “The Mighty Macs” for not squaring with Catholic morality is like criticizing “Schindler’s List” for the gore, violence, death, and nudity.

    Overall, The Mighty Macs did a good job conveying its message. It’s packed with positive themes:

    – Hope has tremendous power
    – Success in anything requires commitment and discipline
    – You should discern your path in life instead of bowing to unfit social norms
    – Teamwork, unity, and community are central to life
    – Self-sacrifice grounds success on and off the court
    – Marriage is difficult but redeemable with love

    Let’s celebrate the film for what it is and what it was meant to be: an entertaining, well-told story praising the value of faith and teamwork.

    • If the movie wasn’t being promoted unreservedly by Catholics and Catholic organizations which gives the impression that it IS a Catholic film, I wouldn’t have even bothered to write a review. Because of the promotion efforts in Catholic circles the movie has taken on a whole new purpose which may have been unintended but is very real now which required a response.

      I have yet to see a single review that gives any indication that the underlying message is dreams trump family or that lying is okay if it’s for the team. Everything I have seen, both on secular and Catholic sites is an undeserved “Go team!”

  6. My general policy is to avoid all films that bill themselves as Catholic. They are NEVER worth it, and I’m too old to be continually setting myself up for disappointment. And Catholic, Protestant, or pagan, I don’t like movies that sneer at motherhood.

  7. Respectfully, I also disagree with this review, especially the inaccurate depiction of the scene in which Cathy and Ed spar over her taking the coaching job. In my recollection, having seen the movie twice, Cathy actually says something much more like, “I really want to have a family with you, but I want to do this, too.” Cathy’s character wasn’t at all anti-family, and neither was Cathy in real life. Cathy has often recounted that what made so many of her players good, unselfish teammates was that they came from large Catholic families. Also, when I interviewed Theresa Shank Grentz, she fondly recalled that all the players saw Cathy as a mother first, as she later brought her young son with her to practice where the girls would take turns playing with him. Indeed, she eventually quit coaching to spend more time with her family.
    Also, the reviewer’s perception of the dialogue unfairly weights Ed’s reaction to Cathy’s hiring as grounded in fact rather than emotion. Such a skewed misrepresentation essentially disrespects every woman who has ever struggled with how to respect her femininity while also plying her other God-given gifts in His service. Perhaps, Ed and Cathy had indeed discussed her taking the job, but Ed didn’t like it or didn’t think she’d actually go through with it (which was my impression). Never mind that we find out later in the movie that Cathy was a Baptist, so we shouldn’t take her word or example as Catholic gospel anyway, no matter what we think about it.
    In short, there is more than one way to view the Cathy character in her cultural context. Whatever one sees, the film apparently seeks to “baptize the imagination” (Peter Kreeft’s phrase) while entertaining the viewer in a faith-friendly context rather than overtly evangelizing or establishing dogma; see Brandon’s comment. The scenes in which Sister Sunday makes some questionable choices can be fairly debated. However, I found the overall representation of the nuns to be positive. They appeared to be real people who pray, have fun, sometimes struggle, and are fallible, but ultimately consecrate themselves in service to the King…just like most of the good, holy, orthodox Sisters I know.

    • I agreed with you about the other sisters in my review.

      All the interesting background is irrelevant because it doesn’t make it in to the movie. Whether Cathy said “we wanted to have a family” or “you wanted to have a family” the movie still presents the choice to coach as the better option because it’s her dream and the husband doesn’t get seeing in a sympathetic light until he accepts her choice. No indication is made in the movie or in the “What happened after” bits that gave any indication that the Rush’s ever had children. A director chooses what message he wants in a movie and if he had wanted a pro-family instead of a pro-feminist message he could have. He didn’t.

      • I included the background in my previous comment to illustrate there is more than one way to interpret those cinematic events, as in reality, they did not play out according to your interpretation. Also, I firmly stand by my recollection that Cathy’s character states in very clear language that she wants a family, and taking the coaching job doesn’t change that. Simply, a woman wanting a job or career does not make her or her story categorically anti-family. Feminism vs. family is a false dichotomy. Authentic feminism, as the Church teaches, is wholly compatible with family values.
        Where one seeks to find fault, it can always be found; where one seeks to find faith, it can always be found, too.

        • I don’t think you’re grasping Ian’s point of view: women don’t belong in the workforce – especially married women. That’s it – period. Women’s goals should *not* be “in the world” but only oriented toward the home if they are not religious.

          Right, Ian?

          I don’t say this as a critique – just think you should be honest.

          • Um, that wasn’t my point at all. The problem with the movie is that personal dreams are shown as being better and more fulfilling than the vocation of raising a family.

            Not all women are called to be mothers or even to be married so your attempt to caricature my position fails.

          • I disagree that the point of the film was to show that personal dreams are more important than raising a family. Otherwise, how do you explain all those childless/familyless sisters? To me, the point of the movie seemed to be do not be afraid to follow your talents, which are given to you for a purpose. We are to use our God given gifts to serve God, not to all go into the same mold just because we think that’s what we should do (incidentally, that’s more of how I understand Mormon theology…). One woman saw her God given talents to serve others instead of her ad agency and boyfriend, and another saw hers to inspire a group of girls to have courage in knowing themselves. Did you see at the end, all the good that those women on the team went on to do? That may not be direct Catholic teaching, but its definitely not opposed to it and as black and white as you make it seem here.

          • Cathy Rush was the star of the film. The constant message throughout for her as the star was that coaching trumped family. All messages regarding family and femininity were to portray it negatively.

            Your comment about the sisters doesn’t prove your point. They aren’t raising families. There isn’t really any discussion with them that gives insight to their motivations.

  8. Feminism/feminist is not a dirty word.

    Ian, I’m really surprised by your review of “Mighty Mac.”

    The themes in this movie are very nuanced even if it’s only got a G-rating. I think they’re themes that are uniquely handled in a Catholic sphere in a way that translates beyond Catholic audiences that are conservative.

    Here’s my take on the film, as well as two other recent films. I don’t anticipate that we’ll agree, though I would hope that we could at least have a conversation. http://www.headlinebistro.com/en/columnists/desolenni/101711.html

  9. Ian, I agree with your take on the movie. I thought it was just another dressed up version of the same old Hollywood feminist message–family bad, ‘freedom’ good. It was just a softer sell than normal that children and family are an impediment to a woman’s happiness. I thought the message rung through loud and clear…

  10. I have not seen the movie yet, Ian, but thanks to your review, really don’t think I will. I know I would pick apart those same things that you did in your review. I “get it”. You are not anti woman, or anti working woman, but you ARE pro family, pro God, pro Catholic. Your review is not anti feminist, it’s about the lying and anti family things in the movie. Like, in a marriage, we are supposed to do what is best for the both of us, not what is best for one. The problem nowadays is that people are so desensitized to those things, that they are not looked at all, they are scoffed away as nothing.

    We recently watched “Believe in Me” a movie about girls basketball in the 1960’s, we watched this with our kids. This was a really good, family friendly movie and I think I’d have a hard time not comparing the two movies.

    Thank you Ian for your review, I appreciate it.

    • Just wanted to echo this! Thank you, Ian, for your thorough review. I know I would squabble about exactly the same elements of this movie as you did, so thank you for saving me and my family the time!

  11. Peace+Blessings Ian!
    I would have preferred to send an email rather than post a comment.
    There is irony in that you criticize that you don’t receive an email response, when you don’t even have your email posted.
    I think your personal character assassination of Lisa, who works for the group promoting & marketing The Mighty Macs, yet who did not make the movie, influences the overall objectivity that you would desire with your critical review. Not to follow in the style of someone who pleads Henry V, but it is the 1st thing you mention 😉
    PLUS IT IS ALL IN BOLD (I put my point in caps, TO MAKE MY POINT–unable to make boldface 🙂
    Also it is misleading to still have it posted there, since she has replied on this blogpost. My only humble exposit: please consider a) removing your initial paragraph altogether b) moving it do the bottom of your thoughts you’ve shared so it doesn’t affect what you really critique & c) if you do move it down, please consider making it normal typeface.
    Plus in its current form, Chesterton would think it rather rude & perhaps crude 🙂
    Furthermore inquiring minds want to know, why would you rate it an 8 of 10 in your initial review (if what M(r)s. Wheeler is truthful), only to bomb it on your blog?
    My only premise in both making my suggestion & asking the question is that you are maintaining a blog that is wonderfully & unapologetically Catholic in its content & inspiration.
    I’m thankful that my friend’s post introduced me to your blog, & I look forward to reading your thoughtshares in the future.
    Pax et Bonum!

    • There is irony in that you criticize that you don’t receive an email response, when you don’t even have your email posted.

      I didn’t say I wanted an e-mail response, any response would have done just fine. I actually was expecting a reply on Facebook since that’s how I sent the review originally.

      Furthermore inquiring minds want to know, why would you rate it an 8 of 10 in your initial review (if what M(r)s. Wheeler is truthful), only to bomb it on your blog?

      I gave the movie an “8” for entertainment and the rest of my review, which required the dexterity of a surgeon to walk away with that as the meat of my critique, included a very abbreviated version of the blog post along with a note that I wouldn’t recommend the movie to anyone.

      Thank you for the suggestion about the first paragraph. I will edit it.

  12. I am rarely one to leave comments, but I feel compelled to voice my support of your review of this movie from a traditional Catholic perspective. I am grateful to know beforehand about these sorts of insidious messages that undermine so much of what we attempt to teach our daughters about their potential vocations–either to marriage or the religious life. And please, Dr. Pia, spare us the equivocation of the word feminism.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by equivocation. John Paul II used the term feminism here in “Evangelium Vitae,” n. 99, para 1: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_en.html

      “In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a “new feminism” which rejects the temptation of imitating models of “male domination”, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation.”

      If the word is used positively in an encyclical of the Catholic Church, might that not be a sign that the rest of us can use it positively, as well?

      • The feminism implied in the movie is not Catholic feminism so in this case, yes, feminism is a bad word.

        I have posted comments on your post twice and they aren’t showing up. Is your comment system broken?

        • Sorry, Ian. I’m not in charge of the HeadlineBistro.com comments. They are moderated; so I assume one of the editors just needs to get to them.

          As for the feminism in the movie, I definitely have a different take on that. If I have time, I’ll finish my blog post for tomorrow. In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree;)

  13. I haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds like there are some rather dubious morals being portrayed in these scenes that you describe. It would be good for the production company to address these issues, or it would be good if you could somehow summarize these points and make them available to pastors for discussion / homilies / etc. because you just know that eventually some priests will use this movie as an example of some “virtuous” behavior. It would be good for them to be able to point out the flaws and errors.

    Keep up the good work!

    • I didn’t see all of these other comments when I made mine…

      I’m still picturing the scene of a priest (as many of our parish priests have done) citing the scenes or themes of a movie as part of a Sunday homily… in this case, talking about the great perseverance of the coach and team to win championships. Would they just ignore the issues of “white lies” and /or questionable behaviors on the part of some of the characters as they were just important means to achieve these ends? Or that it was the “culture” of the time and it should be glossed over? I would like to think that they wouldn’t bypass those points, but there’s a good chance that they would.

      Okay, so maybe it isn’t supposed to be a “Catholic” film and doesn’t profess to be portraying Catholic Church teaching. Maybe everyone has been so numbed by the majority of the ‘mainstream’ movies that are made these days that this movie looks good by comparison and generally sounds like a ‘feel good’ movie. It does seem to be worthwhile to take the time to look at other aspects of the movie that could be called into question, as you have, and make it known that the old saying “the ends don’t justify the means” still has merit.

  14. http://phillystylemag.com/celebrities/articles/emily-deschanel-sits-down-with-david-boreanaz?page=2
    “ED: How was it to work with Carla [actress Carla Gugino on “The Might Macs”]?
    DB: Carla was fun. She’s a practical joker though. She found this old picture of me in a bathtub—a sexy shot—and she put it on a T-shirt. She wore one, the director wore one. She’s very prepared and intense.”

    It doesn’t really seem like the cast and crew were on board with the image Maximus Group projects for the film and I think either of the two suggestive scenes named by Ian is enough to merit a PG rating so, it’s weird that it got a “G”. And Lisa didn’t respond about the creepy scenes. I really don’t want to tear down MG; it seems I’ve actually watched three movies and read two books this year that they’ve promoted. They generally have good judgment in what they promote.

    I realize that we all WANT to promote Catholic films so that Hollywood will give us MORE of them but I think hitching their wagon to this movie was not a great choice for Maximus. For example, I think we all know, for example, that another film they promoted this year (“Courageous”) was filmed with a much different culture on the set and it’s a shame “Macs” wasn’t the same way. And the former’s plot didn’t flirt with employing dishonesty without consequences. I think this philosophy of justifying the ends with the means is a huge problem in Western culture right now.

    And gee, that’s just what nuns need right now, for the TSA at airports to not trust them to be what they appear to be. THANKS, “Macs”! Not to mention that putting Rush on that plane in a habit failed a teaching moment both for those girls and for the audience. Was the intent to put personal goals and winning a game above personal honesty and integrity?

    But I’m wary of being essentially “further right” than the appropriately orthodox Abp. Chaput on anything, despite what I’m disliking about MG’s handling of this matter, which I think is making some of us more suspicious than we otherwise might be of the film’s real message. The content of Ian’s review was really sidestepped.

    I think Ian and Lisa need to come to a truce about this missed Facebook message and I want to hope that he will continue to have the opportunity to preview Catholic films because his observations are astute. (and that Lisa will respond to the substance of his review)

    • For those who think that I am out to get the Maximus Group, let me state that I appreciate that there is a group out there trying to bring good media to the attention of Catholics. I met Lisa at a Catholic Marketing Network conference three years ago when they were relatively new and we’ve collaborated with them on several projects including Fireproof and There Be Dragons.

      I plan on doing so again in the future but as a store owner I’m responsible for what we promote. People look to us for advice on books to read and films to see and trust our “Good Faith. Guaranteed.” pledge. That’s why we don’t blanketly accept everything as good and try to preview what we promote. We have passed on plenty of income because of our fidelity and No China policies but I believe that the end result is a business that people can feel “safe” buying from.

  15. First of all, let me say that having known Ian and his wife since college, I can guarantee you that he is no neanderthal. He is not a misogynist. His wife wouldn’t put up with it if he was! I have always known both of them to be faithful Catholics loyal to the teachings of the Magisterium and uncompromising in their commitment to following those teachings.

    Having a background in theater and having a healthy respect for the artistic medium of film there are a few points I’d like to mention but I preface them by saying I have not seen the movie myself. I’d like to to be able to discern for myself and because I enjoy David Boreanaz as an actor but having just had a baby, I doubt I’ll make it.

    I see Ian’s main point and I agree with it. This is being marketed by Catholics to Catholics as a Catholic movie. I myself received two emails asking me to promote and “please spread the word” about this “inspiring Catholic film” on my blog. Frankly, my standards are fairly high when it comes to film as an art form, but film as entertainment is something else. This movie is not attempting to be great art, just good clean fun from what I can tell from the production information I’ve seen online and if it had been marketed that way, Ian and others wouldn’t have as much to care about. But when you start promoting something as “an inspiring Catholic film” faithful Catholics have the right and the responsibility to hold it to a higher standard and see if it is a fair and good representation of our faith. Just because a film has nuns in it doesn’t make it a “Catholic film”. The Maximus Group should be made aware of that if they aren’t by now. I won’t promote something just because a marketing group says it’s Catholic, I need to see proof.

    My second point is that there are a couple of things Ian mentioned that I could forgive depending on how it was handled in the story. A friend and I were talking about the airline ticket issue in this movie and she pointed out that if it was done as an element of visual humor, respectfully, of course, then the moral implications of the action could possibly be excused in favor of the comedic relief. I can also forgive the treatment of the husband as a neanderthal because, frankly, there are men who behave like neanderthals out there. Even “good Catholic” men. They don’t see the value in helping a wife fulfill her vocation in the home, they see her as cheap labor, someone to do the woman’s work. They don’t appreciate the value of the nurturing and caregiving she provides for the children, they see her as the one who keeps those screaming things out of his hair. They don’t see her as a true partner in life and a helpmate who is there to compliment his weaknesses and encourage his strengths, someone who will help him be better man. She’s just there to service his desires and do his bidding as the head of the family. For those kinds of men, the family is really the last thing he is concerned about after spending all day in his selfish pursuits. I’d like to think this kind of man is on his way to extinction, but sadly, he does still exist and so, if that is the kind of man Cathy Rush married, then he should be portrayed that way. But I don’t think that’s the case here. In fact, from reading the blurb that was included in the emails I received, it seems very clear that this movie was about what Ian said it was about (which is probably very different from reality)… fulfilling personal dreams, everybody else be damned.

    The following two sentences were found in a blurb at the bottom of the emails I received:

    Recently married Cathy Rush is dealing with the aftermath of a truncated playing career. While cultural norms would have her staying at home, she felt compelled to take on a coaching job at Immaculata College, an all-women’s Catholic college in Philadelphia.

    A blurb sets the stage for the production and is written based on how the film wants to be perceived. Sounds like Ian was right again. They want the viewer to focus on the “you go girl” agenda, however; according to a People magazine article from 1976, Cathy’s “playing career” was two years as a non-starting member of the varsity team. And also according to the article, she “fell into coaching because I was looking for something to keep me busy while he was on the road. ” And what are these cultural norms of the 1970’s keeping the little women at home? That might have been true of the previous generation but I was born in 1974 to a working mom and so were all my friends. The seventies might not have seen women achieving equality in the workplace, but they were certainly well established there and had been for a while.

    While I might be able to shrug off these concerns enough to enjoy this movie, if I ever get the chance to see it, my biggest concerns are the Sister Sunday scenes Ian referenced and those concerns alone would keep me from allowing my older children to see it. My children have an aunt who is a religious sister so they have the benefit of knowing these delightfully real women. The one thing they know for certain is that sisters are real people too and while they might laugh and joke, get angry and cry just like the rest of us, heck, they’d probably even drink an alcoholic beverage in a local drinking establishment with a friend, the one thing they would never be is crude or crass. Slapping a young man’s backside, making comments that are meant to be or could be interpreted as innuendo, removing their veil (a sign of modesty and obedience)… wouldn’t happen and should be portrayed as acceptable in todays post-scandal Church. My kids would call foul on those depictions and I do too. That sounds like just a cheap trick to pander to the crowds but frankly, since this movie wasn’t actually made by Catholics, while it disturbs me, it doesn’t surprise me.

    So all of this leads me to believe what my college directing professor told me… that everything is a choice… from the story that is told to the way it’s marketed. Sounds like there were poor choices made here and The Maximus Group might want to rethink their strategies if they want to attract all of the discerning, intelligent Catholic community and not just the ones they can flatter.

  16. BTW… this last paragraph of the article from People really demonstrates their commitment to family. It’s a shame that didn’t make it into the movie. Even though they ended up divorced later in life it’s nice to see that they were both committed to caring for their children. Cathy by giving up her chance at the Olympics and Ed for preferring a job that required less travel and allowed for more time home with his family.


    Though the Mighty Macs last week ended the 51-game win streak of their archrivals and the defending national champs, Mississippi’s Delta State, Cathy and Ed are in no danger of dribbling away their priorities. Cathy coached the U.S. women’s team to a gold medal in the 1975 Pan-American Games, but has bowed out of consideration for the 1976 Olympics job because she fears it will take too much time away from her children. Ed is cool about the queasy future of the ABA because he feels “I can always go back to the NBA. But I won’t if the terms aren’t right—if there is too much travel for example.” (Right now, he is on the road for nearly 100 games a year which leaves him with chronic jet lag.) That means the Rushes may someday decide to live on their income from the camp and the Kodak coaches clinics they’re running. “He’s not really a good cook at all, but he’s great with the kids,” observes Cathy. So it would be no sweat if Ed eventually wound up a househusband. One lesson Cathy’s learned from basketball—and life—is that “there’s no sense in arguing with the referees.”

    • It really is too bad that their actual concern about their family didn’t make it into the movie. This could have been a wonderful film with a message that was uplifting for the sport, for women and for family but the family part came off in the movie as a third-rate option.

  17. Dear Ian, thank you for your insightful review which I am distributing far and wide. Thank you for your vigilance and for having the courage to speak out.

  18. Dear Ian,
    I wrote about Cathy Rush and The Mighty Macs movie (http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=358585). This means I read the director’s notes and saw the movie, but missed some things you mention (perhaps during sneezing bouts because of a cold). On the one hand, Chambers definitely injected some secular feminism. On the other hand, Cathy truly was a woman ahead of her time. However, during my interview Cathy didn’t even hint at secular feminism. Rather, she shared her eyewitness account and gave credit where it was due. For example, she praised two male coaches who had invited her to observe their methods and thus helped to make her a star coach. So Ian, thanks for your review. I’m just offering more on Cathy Rush FYI.

  19. Just stir things up, folks, I’ve got a blog post relating to the conversation here. I’m sorry, but I think it’s very important to make a distinction b/w what’s Catholic and what’s conservative. The views in the original post are not necessarily Catholic. It’s fine if someone doesn’t like the movie, but don’t fault the movie for failing some made up Catholic teaching: http://piadesolenni.com/women-catholics-conservatives/

    • To address your points. Lisa’s response avoided my criticisms. She never addressed the feminist themes I criticized. She never addressed the inappropriate behavior of Sister Sunday and never addressed the portrayal of lying as acceptable. What she DID do is take one piece of my pre-screening rating and make it sound like I had changed my mind later. She also said that the movie had never been marketed as a Catholic film but someone from Maximus was sending out emails to bloggers asking them to support Mighty Macs because it was a Catholic film. She also didn’t correct the paraphrase of Cathy Rush’s comments about wanting to coach instead of having a family. Both my wife and I remembered it the same way. Whether or not Cathy said “we wanted” or “you wanted” she did imply that they were planning on going on vacation to work on starting a family and that she unilaterally was delaying that. So did she rule out having kids altogether? No. Did she make a decision about putting off a family to coach basketball instead when their wasn’t a financial necessity to do so? Yes. She chose to follow her dream and put off having a family. That is not Catholic.

      Your comments create a straw man wherein you stated that my argument was that “live your dreams” is a feminist notion and that women have no place in the workforce. I fully understand that women with younger children may be in circumstances where they have to work 40 hours a week to make ends meet. This, however, is not ideal. Parents are supposed to be the primary educators of their children and if all the kids see of mom and dad is possibly dinner and bedtime prayers, it isn’t the ideal situation. So can women have jobs when they have younger children when it isn’t necessary for the family’s financial security? Sure. As long as the job isn’t put above caring for the family. Dad’s have the same consideration. Are they putting their job ahead of their family? Is the goal of the job to acquire stuff? Obviously, some reconsideration needs to be made.

      I don’t know why you consider it “off-putting” that no one discussed men following their dreams at the expense of their families. That wasn’t what the movie, or the controversy, was about. Had the movie been about Ed Rush and his all-consuming drive to be the top NBA ref. while his wife and children languished at home without ever seeing him then this would have been an issue.

      Like I said at the very beginning of my review, I wouldn’t have bothered writing it if it wasn’t being promoted as a Catholic film. After reading the completely uncritical reviews that followed mine where none of the issues such as lying and Sister Sunday’s behavior were mentioned, I’m even more glad I wrote it.

      The one thing you do have right is that feminism isn’t a bad word. The problem is that the Catholic vision of feminism is not what is portrayed in the film.

  20. Pia,
    After praising some good things in the film, the full sentence in Ian’s review is this: “The problem is that the themes running through the movie, in spite of the uplifting secular message of “live your dreams”, are contrary to Catholic teaching and as such don’t deserve our support.”

    Short of the sacraments which give us grace, Catholic doctrine is the absolute most liberating joy of my life. But I daresay that neither secular nor “new” feminism are to be confused with Catholic doctrine. To the best of my knowledge, no one has been able to define secular feminism, but it seems that almost all its proponents think that females are superior to males; women don’t need men; and yet feminists want to behave exactly like men – and bad men at that. As you well know, most feminists believe using other people as sexual objects and the license to abort babies. IMHO, feminism confuses the heck out of girls and women to the point that many reject their feminine nature. It also confuses men, even good men with honorable intentions. So yes, Pia, feminism can be a dirty word of sorts because, by and large, it represents a dangerous lifestyle that has wreaked havoc on society for generations.

    Pope John Paul II’s call for a “new feminism” isn’t dogma, let alone infallible dogma. IMHO, it’s partly the Holy Father’s invitation for feminists to reject their own style of chauvinism and embrace the full Catholic understanding of human rights. Am I wrong?

    I hope you’ll rethink some of your statements, Pia. I think you’re really off the mark in saying that certain ideas are “conservative.” As a Catholic and conservative, I applaud the Catholic Church and the suffragettes, not the feminists. Big difference.

    As for Ian, he’s in the business of selling Catholic goods and thus he has the moral obligation sell only what is up to Catholic standards. And if he sees flaws in The Mighty Macs, so be it. He has explained himself and been receptive to everyone in this discussion. I happen to like the movie overall, but I would feel the need to warn people about its problems and so I did that in my article. Such is the beauty of critical thinking that the Church has always urged. Even Pope Benedict XVI reminds us think critically.
    Pax Christi.

    • Anita,

      Thanks for your response. However, what JP2 said about the new feminism is in fact part of the Magisterial teaching. Not only did he say it as Pope teaching on matters of faith and morals, but he also said it in an encyclical which is expressly a document putting forth the official teaching of the Church. The subsequent document from CDF (“On the Collaboration of Men and Women”) is also a very heavily weighted document precisely because it came from the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith. The 1990 document “Donum Veritatis” does a nice job of explaining the weight of Vatican documents.

      Ian certainly doesn’t have to like or endorse the movie. I’m just saying that his reasons for not liking the movie are not specifically Catholic; but more in line with the thinking of some conservatives, some Protestant churches, and some other religions.

      I was just thinking that we should be very careful about how we use the “Catholic” stamp of approval or disapproval. Ian’s critique of Maximus just as easily can be turned back on him. In fact, I think he’s very restrictive in his meaning of what’s Catholic and what isn’t, at least when it comes to this movie. That said, it seems to me like he runs a provocative (in a good way) blog and a business with strong principles. I have no quibbles with him personally, just his specific critique of the movie as falling short of Catholic values.

      • John Paul II also said outside work for mothers should *not* come at the expense of family. That is the teaching Ian is claiming the movie contradicts.

        As an educated woman who sees fulfillment in homeschooling, saving my family the corrupted souls and the taxpayers the bloated expense of public education, I would like to urge *more* working mothers to consider their vocation as primary educators. Here is a link that clearly demonstrates the garden path the feminists have led us down http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/MomsPDFs/DDDoA.sml.pdf , and the reason we have so few educated voters. Those who *can* homeschool, should.

        Betty Friedan, the lady communist (look it up) who defined the term for us all, should have labeled her work the “Feminist Mistake”. To try to magnify JPII’s incidental use of the word feminism is also a mistake. Read his lips – at home mothers are important!

  21. I agree. One can tell just by the trailer that this film is a quaint Valentine to the early days of feminism. Cathy Rush is of my older sister’s generation, and I followed close behind. The theme of contraception/family-postponed for the “fulfillment” of work is clear and I won’t be seeing this film. We don’t need those days glorified. Women are returning home, and we and our families are blessed that we are there.

  22. Ian, glad you are standing strong. The hits you are taking are “take two” of what Barbara Nicolosi endured after she panned the Maximus-promoted “Bella.”

  23. I’m impressed!
    As an approaching 30 mom of two youngings (so far), this kind of critical thinking probably wouldn’t have dawned on me while watching this film. Which I have not yet seen.
    However, how can Ian be incorrect in his analysis of the film? If the movie’s intention was not to support 70’s feminism, then why is the movie even based on Cathy Rush, rather than the team to, begin with?
    I understand that it was unlikely for the team to win, yadda yadda, but if the movie is supposed to be based on an unlikely team, then the coach’s story should take a back seat to it.
    I’m thinking either two scenarios here: The producers could have pushed this as an unlikely team for the first season of players (thus leaving out the blended teams and the two latter wins), or it could have put the focus on the coach, and how she “beat the norm as just a housewife/mother and lived her dreams as a coach.” Now how does the second idea promote Catholic values?
    I will probably see the movie, but after reading this blog, it certainly won’t be passed along as a “good Catholic movie.”

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