It’s almost impossible to make a sports movie that is cliché free. A training montage or a wacky play that hasn’t been used all season that is unveiled at a crucial point in the championship game will always work itself in.
“12 Mighty Orphans” decides to go for broke and cram in all the clichés and as many one-dimensional (or no-dimensional) characters as you can possibly fit into one movie. And yet, thanks to a seasoned cast and the fact that a lot of clichés are clichés because they work, the movie still manages to suck you in and make you care about a rag-tag, Depression-era football team.
“12 Might Orphans” is loosely “inspired by true events” and tells the story of the Masonic Home for orphans in Fort Worth, Texas who fielded an unlikely high school football team in the 1930s.
Luke Wilson stars as innovative football coach Rusty Russell who moves his family into the Masonic Home as a teacher and coach.
Rusty runs into resistance from all sides as he tries to start the team, especially from the school’s headmaster Frank Wynn (Wayne Knight as a villain so cartoonishly evil he does everything but tie someone to the railroad tracks).
Rusty does find an ally in the occasionally-alcoholic school doctor Doc Hall (Martin Sheen) who becomes his assistant coach and confidant.
Together they mold a group of 12 outcasts into a formidable football team thanks to wild offensive schemes like the forward pass.
The screenplay doesn’t give the cast a whole lot to work with, but Wilson does a nice job holding the whole thing together as Rusty struggles with his own past as an orphan and his traumas from WWI.
It’s also nice to see veterans like Treat Williams and Robert Duvall show up even if it’s just to essentially walk across the screen and smile.
“12 Mighty Orphans” winds up being enjoyable and inspiring almost in spite of itself, proving that sometimes you can actually get by on a little pluck and determination.
“12 Mighty Orphans” is rated PG-13 for violence, language, some suggestive references, smoking and brief teen drinking.