"12 Mighty Orphans" a by the number sports film

A scene from "12 Mighty Orphans" featuring Luke Wilson (left) and Martin Sheen

"12 Mighty Orphans" is the kind of movie that is fine on the surface, but the substance is lacking.

This based on a true story sports drama basically brings nothing new to the genre - a predictable and paint by the numbers tale that we've seen plenty of times before in better films.

"Orphans" tells the story of Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), a high school football coach in the late 1930s who takes a coaching job at an orphanage in Texas.

We learn through flashbacks that Russell was an orphan himself and a war hero who was injured during his stint in World War I.

Russell has to start from scratch, with the young men having to learn even the basics of the game. 

If you have ever seen a sports movie involving young athletes you pretty much know where this will go. There are obstacles (in the form of an over the top performance from Wayne Knight). There is the bad guy opposing coach (Lane Garrison wearing a weird toupee throughout. There is the lovable assistant with his own issues (Martin Sheen basically channeling Dennis Hopper from "Hoosiers") and there is of course the big game finale.

It all chugs along competently with Wilson, Sheen and the young cast perfectly fine. The problem though is director Ty Roberts films this pretty much in autopilot - borrowing from a lot of superior sports films.

For every moment that works, you got an overly dramatic flashback or an awkward narration that feels like it was added at the last minute to flesh out the narrative.

"12 Mighty Orphans" really has its heart in the right place, but it's a story I wish would have gotten slightly better treatment than this pedestrian sports drama.

Recommended for you