12 Mighty Orphans

By Joanna Langfield

There’s no fancy footwork here, unless you count the plays on the field, but, like the underdog football players it portrays, this little movie wins us over with old fashioned grit and heart.

Luke Wilson stars as real life innovator Rusty Russell, an orphaned WW1 hero, who takes on the seemingly impossible task of creating a football team at a Texas orphanage during the Great Depression. When he and his wife (an underused Vinessa Shaw) show up, the kids are shoeless as well as hopeless. I won’t tell you what happens, but as much as this by the story introduces us to some interesting history, it also aims to inspire, with results you may not completely expect.

Don’t go into this one looking for computer enhanced superheroes or state of the art anything. Director Ty Roberts has, I suppose, purposely chosen to film this one as it may have been seen back when the story actually took place. The movie depends on its own momentum and some of it may feel frustratingly solid to modern audiences. For a good family entertainment though, it scores.

I have not read Jim Dent’s bestselling The Junction Boys, the book on which this film is based. Perhaps he explored more of the societal impacts and pressures the children and administrators of the Texas Freemasons home had to face. Because the history here, in itself, is a moving lesson all on its own. Slammed by not just the economic depression but also the Dust Bowl, the people shown here were dealing with what must have felt like impossible odds. Undoubtedly, today, there are people who have felt the same. To see what can happen, even when the world around you feels overwhelming, is something we can all appreciate and maybe even find encouraging. And who couldn’t use a little of that these days?