Friday, April 12, 2013
I didn't know much about Jackie Robinson before viewing 42, other than that he was the first African-American to play in major league baseball. Although the movie chooses to focus only on the beginning of his baseball career, and fills in a bit about the time period immediately before that, you still learn quite a bit about his career, even though I would not have minded learning more about his post-baseball life as well.
Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is a baseball player who is trying to make the Montreal Royals team, managed by Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), who is also the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch has been thinking about adding an African-American player to the Dodgers, and once Jackie makes the Montreal team, he is soon after offered a spot on the Dodgers. Rickey warns Jackie that there will be a lot of backlash, and he's right; in one particularly hard to watch scene, Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), with the Phillies, calls him the n-word over and over during a Phillies-Dodgers game, trying to intimidate him. Robinson must "prove" that he's good enough to be on the Dodgers, and also must "earn" his place not only in the white man's game of baseball, but with his own teammates too.
The two stars of this show were definitely Chadwick Boseman, as Robinson, and Harrison Ford as "Mr. Rickey" (Branch Rickey). Ford is a chameleon, and can adapt to any role that he plays, and it was fun to see him play the "stodgy" old manager of the Royals and Dodgers. It was also interesting to see how his character reacted to other managers when they displayed blatant racism when Robinson and the Dodgers played their teams. Boseman, a relative unknown, was fantastic as Robinson, and 42 should help to put him on the map as an actor. Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, and Lucas Black play teammates of Robinson, as well, and Nicole Beharie plays Rachel, Jackie's wife.
Yes, see this movie. Be aware, however, that it's very, very slow, and it's long-ish runtime doesn't help that. The story, however, will definitely draw you in, and it prompted me to read Robinson's Wikipedia page after the screening to see what else he accomplished in life after his baseball career ended. I knew that racism was alive and well in the South and the '60s and '70s, but I was shocked at how much there was in the North, too, and 42 should serve as a history lesson to those who, luckily, haven't had to deal with the types of issues that Robinson did in that era.
42 is in theaters today, April 12th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 128 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.