12 Mighty Orphans Parent Guide
"The thing about football is that it is not just about football."
Parent Movie Review
As the Great Depression of the 1930s blows across Texas, Rusty and Juanita Russell (Luke Wilson and Vinessa Shaw) make their way towards Fort Worth. Rusty, a teacher and football coach, is leaving behind a promising start to his career and heading for the Masonic Home for Orphans in the hopes of doing some good there. Juanita, also a teacher, is reluctantly following her husband.
The impoverished and uneducated teens they find at the charitable institution are treated more like inmates than students. And the school’s military-style administrators aren’t anxious to change the way things have always been done. Not even the rebellious youth they have come to serve are much interested in the vision the Russells’ have for their future. To make things worse, the boys know nothing about football.
Holding onto their optimism, Juanita sets out to teach the girls how to be young ladies while Rusty determines to give his charges an education in math, science and football. To put a team together Rusty enlists the only support he can find – Doc (Martin Sheen) the resident physician.
Based on Jim Dent’s book, Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football, the movie recounts the incredible struggles and amazing accomplishments of these rough and tumble misfits who eventually qualify to play in the state championships. It also highlights the innovations Coach Russell introduces to the sport to make his underweight players competitive on the gridiron while facing much heavier and more experienced opponents. And it brings back to remembrance how this underdog team caught the imagination of beleaguered citizens – all of whom needed reasons to cheer and be cheered on through difficult challenges.
Viewers should be forewarned that this depiction of these scrappy boys comes with some equally raw portrayals. The contact sport is shown in detail with bloody injuries and bone-crunching sound effects. Players constantly get into fights with each other and member of opposing teams. Characters have to deal with trauma caused by the loss of loved ones, abandonment of parents and the effects of past war service. Discrimination from the community is rampant and authority figures verbally and physically abuse these under-privileged youth. Other concerns include sexual slang, innuendo, alcohol use and frequent profanity.
Despite this content, some predictable storylines and the script’s tendency to spout philosophical counsel, 12 Mighty Orphans speaks volumes about the need for hope, the value of believing in one’s self and the tenacity it takes to score on an uneven playing field. The life lessons in this film have the potential to inspire parents and their older teens – almost like the original team inspired a nation.Directed by Ty Roberts. Starring Luke Wilson, Robert Duvall, and Martin Sheen. Running time: 118 minutes. Theatrical release June 18, 2021. Updated June 18, 2021
Watch the trailer for 12 Mighty Orphans
12 Mighty Orphans
Rating & Content Info
Why is 12 Mighty Orphans rated PG-13? 12 Mighty Orphans is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for violence, language, some suggestive references, smoking and brief teen drinking.
Violence: The movie contains images of homeless, impoverished people during the drought and great depression of the 1930. Portrayals of WWI trench warfare are shown which include gunfire and gas attacks, along with injured, dead and dying soldiers. Frequent football tackles, (some fair and lots foul) and sports injuries are depicted in detail with sound and blood effects. Characters verbally tease, bully and antagonize one another, often resulting in fistfights. Orphaned children mention the death of their parents or being abandoned by them. Characters deal with loss, grief, betrayal and post-traumatic stress. A teenaged boy is shown covered in blood after the death of his father. A dead rat is shown. An authority figure verbally and physically abuses teens, often beating them with a bat. Other abusive relationships are inferred. A mother slaps her child across the face. Angry characters act out in violent ways, hitting, fighting and physically retaliating against others, or causing property damage. Rebellious characters mouth off and defy rules – extra physical exercise is given as punishment. A man’s leg catches on fire.
Sexual Content: Slang terms are used to refer to masturbation. Some sexual innuendo and crude jokes are heard. A married couple kisses. A boy peeks at girls through their dorm window. A nervous character frequently vomits. Male characters are seen in a shower room, bare chests are shown, and nudity implied. A towel falls off the waist of a recently showered character and brief, rear male nudity is seen. Urination is implied during a bathroom scene.
Profanity: Frequent mild and moderate profanity is heard throughout the film. Some sexual slang terms are used. Name-calling and insults occur. A sexual finger gesture is shown.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An adult character drinks alcohol frequently and is called a drunkard. Teen boys steal liquor, drink it and become drunk. Characters are seen smoking cigars and cigarettes.
Page last updated June 18, 2021
12 Mighty Orphans Parents' Guide
What do you think motivates Rusty to make the sacrifices he does for the orphans? What part does his optimism play in his choices? What causes would you be willing to sacrifice for? Why does he believe football will help the boys gain self-respect? What things help you build your self-respect?
How does the label “orphan” affect the way these parentless teens are viewed by others? How does it affect the way they see themselves? What words does Rusty use to describe the boys? Why is it important for them to gain a greater vision of who they are and what they might become?
Rusty reminds Doc that the two of them are father figures for the boys. What responsibilities come with being a role model? How would you behave if you knew others were looking up to you?
Learn more about the real 12 Mighty Orphans.