Historical football drama 12 Mighty Orphans makes wrong calls
The new film 12 Mighty Orphans recounts a Texas orphanage’s first glorious football season. The historically based movie spreads its dramatic capital thin, though, and it strains its PG-13 rating with dozens of expletives.
Set in the 1930s when Texans were reeling from the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl drought, the story focuses on a dozen teen boys and four adults at the Masonic Home, an orphanage in Fort Worth. Frank Wynn (Wayne Knight) “keeps the hooligans in line” with a wooden paddle, and he personally profits from the orphanage’s cottage industries. Doc Hall (Martin Sheen) patches the boys up after Wynn’s beatings and nips liquor from a flask. The orphanage hires Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), a math teacher and successful football coach, and his wife Juanita (Vinessa Shaw), also a teacher.
“We left everything for a place with nothing,” Juanita tells her husband.
“That’s exactly why we came,” Rusty replies.
Inspiring mission, but the film recounts it with football-playbook dispassion—just X’s and O’s, no hugs and kisses. For example, a potentially fun scene where the boys sneak out to a theater lasts barely a minute. The film relegates the orphanage girls to background furniture and fails to express warmth in any heroic character. Despite compelling material, 12 Mighty Orphans fumbles an opportunity to make viewers cheer.