This team was never supposed to be any good. They were certainly never expected to challenge the upper echelons of monied, aristocratic football in Texas. But behind two men who believed in what they could do and be as men and football players, the two-way-playing twelve orphans proved experts wrong and gave hope to the impoverished communities around Fort Worth.
Luke Wilson plays Russell as the hardscrabble mastermind behind the spread offense, the revolutionary way that a group of smaller, faster players could neutralize the bigger, stronger players on better established teams. Russell’s wife Juanita (Vinessa Shaw) and daughter provide emotional support he needs, while Martin Sheen’s Doc Hall serves as the narrator, humorist, and sage advisor to Russell and the rest of the team. The fact that Russell was an orphan, too? That only served to connect the boys to their coach, and remind audiences that sometimes, knowing how it feels to suffer gives us the ability to empathize with others.
Yes, the movie has football but this isn’t about football. It’s about resilience, and never giving up. It’s about standing up for the underdog, those without a voice, those forgotten about by society. It’s about choosing to take all of the hurt you’ve experienced and using it to serve others and to make yourself empathetic to people who act differently than you do. It’s about family that isn’t by blood but by circumstances and shared experience.
The Dove Take:
Due to prevalent language and some violence, 12 Mighty Orphans falls short of Dove approval, but certainly has strong messages about justice and self-worth for more mature audiences.