Director: Ty Roberts
Writer: Ty Roberts, Lane Garrison and Kevin Meyer
Starring: Luke Wilson, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Vinessa shaw, Jake Austin Walker, Treat Williams, and Wayne Knight
12 Mighty Orphans is an underdog sports story that feels very familiar to things we’ve all seen over and over again. It sets itself apart with a stellar cast and a lot of emotional moments. This is the story of Rusty Russel who leaves a good job to coach an American football team at an orphanage in Texas. They have everything stacked against them, but Rusty pulls them together and pushes them forward.
Luke Wilson gives a fantastic performance as Rusty Russel, the coach of the orphan’s football team. He’s straight laced and takes everything as serious as possible. Wilson is charming in the role and you can’t help but like him. It’s easy to believe that he would rally up the rough around the edges group and make them into something special. He also works well with Martin Sheen, who is great as Doc Hall, the assistant coach to the team. The group who play the 12 orphans are excellent in their roles, but even though the films is about them, only a couple stand out as characters. Wayne Knight is perfectly cast as the slimy and untrustworthy Frank Wynn, on of the villains of the film. The whole cast is great but this is Luke Wilson’s film, he’s centre stage.
As to be expected with films ‘based on a true story’, there is a lot of exaggeration. Rusty wasn’t an orphan in real life, Frank Wynn didn’t get his just desserts, the film takes several years of true events and compresses them into one year. That being said, Rusty’s daughter has praised the film, saying that it captured her parents perfectly and that their apartment looks exactly how remembers. The events may not be completely accurate, but the essence of the truth and the feel era is felt throughout.
The costumes and sets are excellent. It’s like stepping through a window into the depression era of America. Everything looks authentic and you really get a sense of what it must have been like at the time. The actual matches are shot incredibly well. They feel real and you can feel every tackle on screen. It’s eye wincing at moments when injuries happen and heart pounding when things go well. I don’t know a thing about the spot, but I was enthralled for every moment.
The film uses the true story to give an uplifting tale of struggling with past trauma. Rusty is an orphan (at least in the film), who struggles with abandonment and the memories of WW1. Doc Hall is a heavy drinker who lost his wife and child during childbirth. The children all have their own tragic moments and the film really gets you and pulls on your heart making you want them to succeed that much more.
12 Might Orphans is one of the best feel-good films of recent years. Even if you don’t know anything about American football it’s exciting and thrilling to watch the games being played. Yes, the story has been done over and over again, but there is still a lot of heart with this film. The characters are endearing, and you’ll have a smile on your face for so much of it.