A 12-year-old boy, with help from his dad, stops at nothing to make it to the Little League World Series.
Sometimes, injustice is the most certain path to poetic justice. That’s the moral of the story in Twelve, where an 11-year-old with an Energizer-bunny work ethic toward baseball overcomes a snub and becomes at age 12, as an observant college scout puts it, “the greatest baseball player I’ve ever seen. Ever.”
Kyle Cooke (Wyatt Ralff) earns a spot on the Oakwood baseball team that he never gets—denied by a coach who believes nepotism for his son and favoritism toward a business partner’s son is the best way to build a championship squad. Kyle’s father, Ted (Erik Heger), fearing that his son will never get a break in Oakwood, rents a cheapie apartment in neighboring Brighton so that his son can make the team there and perhaps reach the Little League World Series. The move is fraught with risk: Ted had already been laid off and now he’s a struggling salesman paying for two residences, while his family fears being forced to move again. “We have to give him a chance to live his dream,” Ted pleads to his apprehensive wife, Beth (Jenny Mudge).
We scarcely see Kyle do anything else such as school, sleep or other activities with friends. His life, and this movie, are consumed with baseball. Kyle works out every waking minute, begging his father and older brother Xavier (Liam Obergföll) to practice with him. He even asks his father to force Xavier, who prefers to be called “X,” to practice with him.
What his father can’t or won’t do, X’s girlfriend, Brooke (Lexi Collins), can and does. Threatening to break up with X, she gets him to practice with Kyle and perhaps is the most effective coach in the whole movie. She tells Kyle just before his biggest tournament, “You didn’t come this far just to come this far. Win it!”
Even though you can see where the plot is headed a mile away, the journey toward the inevitable showdown between Kyle and the coach who snubbed him is an enjoyable ride. Kyle gets so good he tends toward cockiness. Though he had a bad experience years before, in a game where one of his pitches nearly killed an opposing batter, Kyle overcomes his fear when his team needs him to pitch and his World Series dream is at stake. So confident is he that he invokes an almost never-seen-in-actual-games risky and unconventional strategy: intentionally walking the tying run on base, just so he can get a shot at the batter on deck—the coach’s son, who made snide remarks a year earlier when Kyle was trying to make his team.
Would Kyle have worked this hard if he hadn’t been cut in Oakwood? Probably not, but the movie’s message is reminiscent of Romans 8:28, in that all things worked together for Kyle’s good, even though some of those things undoubtedly stung at the time. Though there’s no explicit faith message in this movie, the story is positive enough to merit the Dove-Approved Seal for All Ages. Anybody following Kyle’s example will live out the words of Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
The Dove Take:
In the beginning of this project —or should we say “big inning”?—God blessed a baseball movie-maker with a script that gives even those who find the game boring something to enjoy in Twelve.