12 Mighty Orphans
AnonymousJune 11, 2021 at 10:21 AM
Wholesome in the most “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” brand of mythical Americanism, “12 Mighty Orphans” is engineered to rouse emotions with uncritical pride, never reaching the less immaculate corners of the historical period it employs as canvas.
As schematic as they come, this is a movie about football innovation and good people helping parentless teenagers transition into more self-confident young men. Reworked from Jim Dent’s novel, about the real 1930s-1940s Mighty Mites team from the Masonic Home and School of Texas, this on-screen reformatting directed by Ty Roberts is competently pedestrian.
A country emerging from the Great Depression serves as backdrop. President Roosevelt has put the New Deal in motion and the nation thirsts for hopeful stories that speak of a better tomorrow for all. Enveloped in that sentimentality is teacher, coach, and war hero Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson). He moves his family to an orphanage, the Masonic Home, to impact the resident boys’ lives through academics and, more vehemently, on the field.
Deployed early on and repeated throughout, bombastic editing choices call back to Rusty’s days on the battleground, creating visual parallels between war and football. These bits, which intermingle archival footage and black-and-white reenactments, cheapen the otherwise visual pleasantness of David McFarland’s cinematography (even if he likely shot those unfortunate snippets too).
The majority of the boys we meet, including the ones that make the cut for the dozen in question, don’t get much of a backstory; some never even speak.
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