Entertainment and Arts

’12 Mighty Orphans’ Brings Heartwarming True Story to Life

By: Russ Matthews

While living in Texas, it is impossible to miss the influence of gridiron football.

At the heart of every community, big or small, you will find everyone will be at the local stadium cheering on the high school football team. Many couches have come and gone throughout the years. Still, few have risen to the legendary status of Harvey ‘Rusty’ Russell (Luke Wilson) of the Mighty Mites of the Masonic School for Orphans.

During the Depression-era, Texas was steeped in hardship and heartache permeated every township. Many children were left at the doors of the orphanages around the state. These institutions were the only option for many people who were left with little choice for their children’s future. The Masonic School for Orphans in Fort Worth was a facility to house many of these children. Even though it was a desperate atmosphere for the children, it did provide food and housing. It did not have a football program since most of the older students worked when they were not in class.

Rusty Russell had been a successful coach and teacher at Temple High School. Yet, something personal drew him to the challenge of coaching a team at the orphanage. He had been left at an orphanage as a child. A part of his past that inspired the coach to see how he could offer a future to the boys at the school. With no football field and only a ball as equipment, the optimistic coach managed to wrangle a spartan crew of twelve hardened youth to practice each day. Despite being smaller than the other teams, they relied on the coach’s innovative style to hold legendary status in Texas football history.

12 Mighty Orphans could be slotted into the category of all the feel-good football films of the past, but there is something more to this historical tale. Jim Dent’s book highlights Rusty Russell’s ingenuity while Ty Robert’s (The Iron Orchard) vivid depiction of the desperate atmosphere of the Depression-era and life in an orphanage was compelling. By showing the inspirational influence that this bespeckled coach had on these destitute children will keep audiences spell-bound until the end.

Even though he has built his career on comedic roles, Luke Wilson manages to make a dramatic turn that highlights his filmography. He embodies the torched and poignant coach with a subtle finesse that is believably motivating. Along with Martin Sheen and a talented cast of young talent, this production does offer something unique within this well-known genre. This unexpected gem should be on the watch list of every coach and those who enjoy a bit of football along with a well-told history lesson.

REEL DIALOGUE: Life of an orphan

There is nothing quite like the love of a parent or knowing your parents. Even in the worst of experiences, the love, support, and hug from your father or mother should have a soothing effect on your very existence. Yet, for the kids in 12 Mighty Orphans, the experience of loss is even more confronting.

It is hard to imagine that a story about football could provide a glimpse into the value of a family. Still, there is a message of love and acceptance at the heart of this bit of history. Some of these elements are found on the playing field. While even more were discovered during the personal moments within the orphanage. Even though it is challenging to replace blood relations, there is hope for us all when being seen and accepted. They may come in the form of a blended family or in the investment of someone in your life. Whatever form this comes in your life, most of us can realise that no price can be put on the importance of parents in the life of a child.

Have you told your children how much they mean to you today?

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. – 1 John 3:1-2

Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

All images: Movie stills

About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.

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