Want more recommendations for your family?
Sign up for our weekly newsletter for entertainment inspiration
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Themes include empathy, perseverance, teamwork. Like most sports movies, emphasizes people from different backgrounds learning to work together toward a common goal, whether on the field or personally. Reinforces idea that individuals can contribute to an effort bigger than themselves, that people shouldn't underestimate others because of humble origins or circumstances.
Positive Role Models
Rusty is an extraordinarily devoted coach and loving husband and father. Doc is loyal to the students and football program. The boys all persevere despite odds stacked against them. Representation-wise, movie focuses solely on White characters, even though two players on the team are presented as Latino (their real-life counterparts are mentioned in the end credits).
Violence & Scariness
Hardy shows up at the orphanage covered in blood. The boys are hurt (sometimes repeatedly) if they disobey orders. The boys get into fistfights, pushing one another. A boy is purposely hurt and sustains a compound fracture. A mother repeatedly slaps her son at the orphanage when he doesn't want to go home with her. Peeping Tom incident.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Innuendo about masturbation ("son, if you don't stop shucking your corn, your cob is going to fall off"), overt comments about women's bodies ("here comes mama," "she has a nice rack"). A married couple hugs and kisses, as does an engaged couple.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Cursing includes one use of "f--k" as well as "s--t," "ass," "bastard," "trash," "son of a bitch," "damn," "dumb," "fat ass," "god-dang," "dirty," "stuttering Sasquatch," etc.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Doc drinks a lot and is publicly called a drunk. Characters smoke cigars and cigarillos.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that 12 Mighty Orphans is a Depression-era sports drama based on the true story of one of Texas' most storied coaches, Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson), who led a football team from an orphanage to the state high school championships. The movie explores both prejudice against orphans and the universal manner in which sports bring people together to work toward a common goal. There's occasional strong/insult language (one "f--king," plus "s--t," "ass," "son of a bitch," "dirty orphans," etc.), as well as sexual innuendoes, a couple of quick kisses, and a Peeping Tom incident. The players get into fistfights and are the victims of abuse from orphanage authorities and, in one case, a mother. Families who watch together can research the history of the real Mighty Mites from Forth Worth, Texas, and talk about the movie's themes of empathy, perseverance, and teamwork (as well as the problematic fact that the team's two Latino boys are kept completely in the background). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This corny underdog football drama has decent performances but doesn't quite live up to the inspiring history lesson or deep character study it could have been. Based on sportswriter Jim Dent's same-named book, the movie features the predictable feel-good aspect of most historical sports films: a team of ragtag players, a devoted coach, and all the odds stacked against them. The antagonists -- both Knight's Frank and Garrison's rival coach -- are ridiculously over-the-top, making nonstop cruel comments and coming across as sadistic in their desire to see the orphans completely downtrodden. All that's missing is some exaggerated mustache twirling to make their campy villainy complete. Their performances are so outlandish that it detracts from the dramatic arc of the team's season.
Despite Wilson's and Sheen's standout portrayals, the story doesn't focus enough on the individual players, aside from how Hardy arrives at the orphanage covered in his dead father's blood, or when Wheatie's unstable mother appears and starts slapping him. Several players barely get any lines, notably the two Latino boys who are present but kept completely in the background. Audiences learn more about these players at the end when photos of their real counterparts pop up on-screen. Even Rusty's character, whom we learn was an orphan himself, isn't as fully developed as other famous movie coaches. It's hard to decipher what really happened (reportedly, the movie condenses into one season what it took nearly a decade for Coach Russell to build, and it's unlikely that President Roosevelt would've been that invested in Texas football policies), but the movie may successfully compel audiences to learn more about the scrappy orphans who defied the odds both on and off the field.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.