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Review: Inspirational football drama '12 Mighty Orphans' comes up short

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12 Mighty Orphans (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics){ }

12 Mighty Orphans
3 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Ty Roberts
Writer: Ty Roberts, Kevin Meyer, Lane Garrison, Jim Dent
Starring: Luke Wilson, Robert Duvall, Vinessa Shaw
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, some suggestive references, smoking and brief teen drinking

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SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: A successful Texas high school football coach takes on the challenge of making a successful team out of a group of discarded orphaned boys.

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Review: Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, “12 Mighty Orphans” is based on the non-fiction book “Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football” by Jim Dent. It’s an inspirational story that follows Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), a successful high school coach, as he takes on the biggest challenge of his life when he agrees to teach a group of orphaned teenagers how to play football. In the process Russell changed the way football would be played for decades to come.

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I was a little surprised by how romanticized aspects of the fil felt. Even the most terrible of characters are presented in somewhat comedic, almost cartoonish ways. It is almost as if director Ty Roberts was more focused on making a feel-good experience that he sanded off the jagged ages. It is more akin to a Disney release than it is to the traditional art house fare that Sony Pictures Classics tends to release.

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There are a handful of scenes, one involving a particularly vicious beating instantly comes to mind, that shake out the sugar and sentimentality just enough to give a sense of the bitter reality of these young men’s lives. Those are the scenes that will stick with me. Those are the moments that makes their struggle and success truly inspiring. As it is, “12 Mighty Orphans” feels a bit too soft to be fully effective.