12 Mighty Orphans
12 Mighty Orphans

Screenings: August 6-11

Show Times: Fri, Sat, Wed at 7:30 p.m. Sat & Sun matinees at 2:00 p.m.

Admission: $9 Regular; $8 Senior/Student/Military; $7 Member & Wednesdays

Running Time: 118 min

Language/Subtitles: English

Film Director: Ty Roberts

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Luke Wilson is Rusty Russell, a World War I hero suffering both eye problems and post-traumatic stress while also being a lauded high school football coach who takes an unlikely job: launching a football team at Masonic, a school without a football field or the respect of the other learning institutions who consider it less a school and more of a dumping ground for poor kids abandoned by their Depression-weary parents. Russell, who didn’t know his parents, himself is soon dismissed as “a half-blind, four-eyed orphan coach.”

Masonic barely had enough players to field a real team but had to make do with the 12 boys who vaguely fit the bill. And abusive principal Frank Wynn (Wayne Knight) is so disbelieving in the students’ talent or worth as human beings that he sees them mostly as a source of cheap labor.

But Russell and enthusiastic but alcoholic Doc Hall (Martin Sheen), the school doctor who also acts as Russell’s assistant, sense that, gosh darn it, these boys just need to be given a chance. But first they have to be transformed from a bunch of squabbling kids into a team of disciplined young men. The change doesn’t happen soon enough to help with their first game — going up against renowned Polytechnic High School, coached by dapper but dastardly Luther (Lane Garrison) — but they soon begin to shift their attitude as their confidence grows.

Wilson, who’s from Dallas, plays Russell — a man who would pioneer “the spread offense” and go on to coach at SMU — with a rangy and sincere likability that suits the character. But it’s the kids who really shine, especially Jake Austin Walker (“Testify”) as troubled but talented Hardy Brown.

Roberts, working from a script by Kevin Meyer that’s based on the book by Dallas sports writer Jim Dent, is enough of a Texan to shoehorn in a jokey Texas moment that might fly over the heads of those in other parts of the country. When the underdog Mites travel to Dallas to play ritzy Highland Park High School — with Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher Amon Carter (Treat Williams) in attendance, a man reportedly so disinclined to support the Big D economy that he brought a sack lunch along whenever he had to visit — it’s obvious whose side we have to take in the old Fort Worth-Dallas rivalry.  Cary Darling, Houston Chronicle. Rated PG-13: for violence, language, some suggestive references, smoking and brief teen drinking.