12 Mighty Orphans

12 Mighty Orphans

2021, PG-13, 118 min. Directed by Ty Roberts. Starring Luke Wilson, Martin Sheen, Wayne Knight, Vinessa Shaw, Treat Williams, Lane Garrison, Ron White.

REVIEWED By Jenny Nulf, Fri., June 11, 2021

“Stay down in the dirt where you belong, loser orphan” is a line that it shouted on the football field in Ty Roberts’ Texas sports drama 12 Mighty Orphans. The film, that’s based on a true story, is either the best satire of all time, or one of the most generic and boring sports movies to have ever been made. In Roberts’ film, Luke Wilson plays Rusty Russell, a high school football coach who volunteers to get a ragtag team of orphans in shape to compete during the 1A season. With the help of Doc Hall (Sheen), Russell manages to create synergy on a small team of just 12 players, giving them a gift that could change their lives.

12 Might Orphans feels like it could be an SNL sketch about Oscars Bait. The film has it all – historical period piece roots, successful actors that feel too big for the film’s material, the thread of overcoming the odds, and, of course, the down-on-their-luck orphans. Hell, even Rusty is revealed to be an orphan, one who was almost blinded during World War I. The tragedy keeps piling on as Wayne Knight’s character, Frank Wynn (a teacher who relies on a paddle for punishment), becomes increasingly sinister and actively tries to ruin the team’s chances of making it to the state football championship.

Sheen is seemingly having the time of his life, decorated in many phenomenal hats and cracking cheeky quips as he casually downs the liquor from his flask. He’s also tasked with the unforgiving job of voiceover narration, sprinkled throughout the film over archival pictures and clips, which abruptly kills any sort of momentum 12 Mighty Orphans drums up. The VO is reminiscent of a cheap TV documentary, and Sheen’s voice is neither warm nor inviting. It’s an addition that unnecessarily reminds the viewer about the film’s historical accuracy, a plea to take the film seriously.

As serious as it tries, 12 Mighty Orphans never earns that kind of respect. The script is littered with misogynistic locker room talk, from the use of “ladies” as an insult, to immediately objectifying Vinessa Shaw, who plays Russell’s wife Juanita, as soon as she appears on screen. One could argue this is what young boys would talk like in the 1930s, and truthfully unimaginative banter is the least of the film’s worries, but there’s something so tired about its use.

The sad truth that is revealed in the credits is that football didn’t really save the lives of most of these kids, but likely became their one shining glimmer of happiness they looked back on throughout most of their adult lives while fighting in multiple wars. There is no denying that being parentless during the Great Depression called for a lot of resilience, but 12 Mighty Orphans’ underdog story unfortunately plays out to farce levels of entertainment.

Showtimes

Arbor Cinema @ Great Hills

9828 Great Hills Trail, 512/231-9742

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Tue., June 15

CC/DVS 12:20, 3:30, 6:50

Wed., June 16

CC/DVS 12:20, 3:30, 6:50

Thu., June 17

CC/DVS 12:20, 3:30, 6:50

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 Capital of Texas Hwy. S., 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Tue., June 15

CC/DVS 4:50, 7:50

Wed., June 16

CC/DVS 4:50, 7:50

Thu., June 17

CC/DVS 3:40, 6:40

Cinemark 20 and XD

N. I-35 & FM 1825, 512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

Tue., June 15

digital 1:05, 4:00, 7:05, 10:05

Cinemark Cedar Park

1335 E. Whitestone, Cedar Park, 800/326-3264

Call theatre for complete list of movies and showtimes.

Tue., June 15

digital 1:00, 4:00, 7:00

Wed., June 16

digital 1:00, 4:00, 7:00

Thu., June 17

digital 1:00, 4:00, 7:00

Tue., June 15

digital 2:10, 5:10, 5:50, 8:10, 9:10

Wed., June 16

digital 2:10, 5:10, 8:10

Cinemark Round Rock

4401 N. I-35, Round Rock, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium. Call theatre for complete March 26-28 showtimes.

Tue., June 15

digital 3:20, 6:30

Wed., June 16

digital 3:20, 6:30

Thu., June 17

digital 3:20, 6:30

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., June 15

digital 10:40am, 1:40, 4:40, 7:40

Wed., June 16

3:05, 5:30, 8:00

Thu., June 17

3:05, 5:30, 8:00

City Lights Theatre

420 Wolf Ranch Parkway, Georgetown, 512/868-9922

Tue., June 15

1:20, 4:00, 7:00

Wed., June 16

1:20, 4:00, 7:00

Thu., June 17

1:20, 4:00, 7:00

Film Alley Bastrop

1600 Chestnut St, Bastrop, 512/321-0123, bastrop.filmalley.net/

Tue., June 15

12:40, 4:25, 7:30

Wed., June 16

12:40, 4:25, 7:30

Thu., June 17

12:40, 4:25, 7:30

Gateway Theatre

9700 Stonelake, 512/416-5700

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Tue., June 15

CC/DVS 1:10, 4:10, 7:10, 10:00

Wed., June 16

CC/DVS 1:20, 4:20, 7:15, 10:05

Thu., June 17

CC/DVS 1:15, 4:15, 7:15

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 FM 620 N., Bldg. B, 512/501-3520, www.themoviehouse.com/trails/

Fri., June 18

1:00, 4:30, 8:00

Sat., June 19

1:00, 4:30, 8:00

Sun., June 20

1:00, 4:30, 8:00

Mon., June 21

1:00, 4:30, 8:00

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

12 Mighty Orphans, Ty Roberts, Luke Wilson, Martin Sheen, Wayne Knight, Vinessa Shaw, Treat Williams, Lane Garrison, Ron White

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