12 Mighty Orphans (12A)Cast: Jake Austin Walker, Wayne Knight, Vinessa Shaw, Luke Wilson, Martin Sheen
Author(s): Ty Roberts, Lane Garrison
Director: Ty Roberts
Release Date: 17/09/2021 (selected cinemas)
Running Time: 118mins
In the aftermath of the Great Depression, war hero Rusty Russell transplants his wife Juanita and two young daughters from Temple in Texas to the dustbowl of Fort Worth. Husband and wife take teaching positions at The Masonic Home and School for around 150 orphans. While Juanita concentrates on moulding girls into ladies, Rusty inspires the boys in the classroom and then heads outside to assemble a ragtag American football team with one punctured ball on a patch of arid soil.
LondonNet Film Review
12 Mighty Orphans (12A)
From its opening title card (“This story was inspired by true events”) and Martin Sheen’s prosaic narration of black and white footage of the Great Depression, 12 Mighty Orphans slavishly abides by the conventions of an underdog sports drama. Director Ty Roberts’ film huddles with Jim Dent’s best-selling book to celebrate the achievements of disadvantaged boys from Texas, who overcame Dickensian mistreatment, deep-rooted abandonment issues and self-doubt to sow seeds of hope across the nation…
It’s wholesome, old-fashioned fare, which mythologises the Mighty Mites as they were known during a period of great hardship, when children without parents were treated as second-class citizens. The script, co-written by Roberts, Lane Garrison and Kevin Meyer, passes the ball between hastily written characters, giving us little sense of who the orphans were before inspirational teacher Rusty Russell rewrites the rulebook with his spread offence formation, relying on the speed of his weakling players to overcome stronger opponents.
There is a satisfying predictability to each narrative play, including a throwaway subplot involving a sadistic teacher, who exploits the boys as labour for a printing press to line his pockets. Luke Wilson chews lightly on his football coach’s stirring speeches about brotherhood under fire as composer Mark Orton ladles on the syrup.
In the aftermath of the Great Depression, war hero Rusty Russell (Wilson) transplants his wife Juanita (Vinessa Shaw) and two young daughters from Temple in Texas to the dustbowl of Fort Worth. Husband and wife take teaching positions at The Masonic Home and School for around 150 orphans run by Frank Wynn (Wayne Knight), an unsympathetic brute who “keeps the hooligans at bay” with a wooden paddle nicknamed Bertha. While Juanita concentrates on moulding girls into ladies, Rusty inspires the boys in the classroom and then heads outside to assemble a ragtag American football team with one punctured ball on a patch of arid soil.
“You can either work the field or play the field,” Rusty tells his charges including grief-stricken new arrival Hardy (Jake Austin Walker), who was found by police at the scene of his father’s suicide by shotgun. The boys gradually bend to Rusty’s will, with encouragement from avuncular school medic Doc Hall (Sheen). The newly-formed Mighty Mites capture the public’s attention, sparking a fierce rivalry with Polytechnic High School coached by Luther Scarborough (Lane Garrison), who rudely dismisses the outsiders’ chance of success: “Orphan footballers? That’s as dumb as letting women vote!”
12 Mighty Orphans builds slowly to the obligatory championship showdown where life lessons are tested and a rallying cry in the dressing room transforms terrified boys into resilient men. With the greatest amount of screen time, Walker stands out from a line-up of fresh faces as the film’s most valuable player.
– Sarah Lee
UK and Irish Cinemas Showing 12 Mighty Orphans
From: Friday 24th September
To: Thursday 30th September
Fri/Mon-Wed 14:00; Sat/Sun 13:50
Sat/Sun 11:15 14:10
Fri-Wed 13:50 (Sat/Sun) 16:40
Fri-Wed 11:15 14:10 17:00
Fri/Mon-Wed 17:20; Sat/Sun 17:15
Sat/Sun 11:50; Mon-Wed 16:00
Fri/Mon-Wed 16:10; Sat/Sun 11:30
Fri/Mon/Tue 12:50; Wed 12:45
Fri 13:00; Mon-Wed 13:10
Fri/Mon-Wed 13:10; Sat/Sun 11:40
Fri/Mon-Wed 13:30; Sat/Sun 11:15
Sat 12:00; Sun 10:40
Fri/Mon-Wed 16:00; Sat/Sun 15:40
13:15 (Sat/Sun) 16:00
From: Friday 1st October
To: Thursday 7th October
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