Directed: Ty Roberts
Writers: Lane Garrison, Kevin Meyer, Jim Dent (Novel)
Starring: Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Vinessa Shaw
Plot: Haunted by his mysterious past, a devoted high school football coach leads a scrawny team of orphans to the state championship during the Great Depression and inspires a broken nation along the way.
We meet Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), who recently has been hired as the football coach for this orphanage. The orphanage isn’t known for football, and chatter amongst those who work there is unsure why. Rusty took on the job without his wife’s approval, but he is hoping to make a change in these kids’ lives.
Frank Wynn, a worker in the orphanage, isn’t happy with the arrival of Rusty, and he is doing everything in his power to put obstacles in front of him to stop the football team from happening. The new rule in place states that if the kids can’t pass a test, they can’t play football, which gives Rusty motivation.
The teaming of writers Lane Garrison/Kevin Meyer with director Ty Roberts do a great job of bringing Jim Dent’s novel and this true story to life. You can’t help but be on the sidelines cheering as you watch the movie unfold. It’s a story of hope, love, and good ol football.
Although football may be at the forefront of the movie, it’s what happens with Rusty and these kids that give the film’s heart. Rusty is the heart of the film, and Luke Wilson gives his best performance of his career. You have Coach Rusty, a competitive, hard-nosed who wants to win, and you have the man Rusty who wants to help these kids grow into better men. Luke plays both roles with conviction and heart. He engulfs you in this emotional roller coaster of a ride throughout the movie.
Although the film was a little long, it never loses its way. The third act is where we see Wayne Knight shine as Frank Wynn. You hate him because of Wayne, his villainous mannerisms are downright scary, but he takes the role to the next level with ruthless aggression. When the final pieces slowly start to come together, we can’t help but grab for the tissues as the boys begin to show some true life for the first time in their lives. The last year has had its ups and downs, and 12 Might Orphans is the perfect feel-good story that the world needs to see right now.
The Verdict: B+
‘Luke Wilson gives a career-best performance as 12 Mighty Orphans is the feel-good story we all need to see.’