Spring is here and that means it’s time for baseball. This weekend at the theatre, you can witness the story of the American legend, Jackie Robinson. Robinson’s story is truly inspirational and heartfelt. 42 captures the racial tension of the late 1940s and places the audience in the shoes of Robinson. Though the film starts out a little slow, it ends up becoming an emotional picture with a message that is a little deeper than baseball. It is a story about identity and acceptance. Even though there are still racial and segregation problems in the world today, it is better than it was and we have Robinson to thank for that. 42 is definitely a crowd pleaser.
In the late 1940s, all of America’s favorite baseball players were returning from the war. However, the Jim Crow laws were still in effect and everything was divided. African Americans were not allowed to use the same bathrooms as white folk, they couldn’t drink from the same water fountains, they couldn’t ride on the front of the bus, and they certainly couldn’t play on the same baseball team as white Americans. The executive of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey, decides that he wants to do whatever it takes to win a World Series. He knows that there are a ton of talented African American baseball players and he wants one of them to play for his team. He finds Jackie Robinson and gives him the chance to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. A ton of people are offended by the idea of a black man playing “white” baseball but Rickey pursues with his idea. He explains to Robinson that in order to be accepted, he must have the guts to not fight back when anyone tries to egg him on and instead play the game better than anyone can imagine. Robinson must push through the struggles he is facing and ignore the extreme hatred that people feel towards him in order to become an American legend and show the world that if a person has the talent, they deserve a shot.
As stated before, the first half of the film is not nearly as good as the second half. The problem with the first half is that the film comes off as a little cheesy. The situation that Robinson is going through shouldn’t be taken as light-hearted. Instead, there are a lot of jokes and a ton of comical come back remarks. In the first half, anyone that is racist towards Robinson isn’t taken seriously and is seen as just some silly red-neck. There is very little drama or challenge for Robinson. In fact, they make Robinson look like a super hero with absolutely no weakness. Little gets under his skin, he always steals a base, and he always hits a home run. It isn’t until Robinson is in the big leagues that the director finally wakes up and the film becomes about something more than a really good baseball player. Here, Robinson shows emotion. We finally see that he isn’t perfect. He starts making mistakes when folks are jeering at him. We see that there is an inner battle in Robinson where he wants to be violent but he knows that if he does that, he loses and people will say that he really didn’t belong there. This part of film is both shot and directed extremely well. When the film is directed with emotion and purpose, the film has emotion and purpose.
The acting in 42 is marvelous. Chadwick Boseman plays Jackie Robinson perfectly. I haven’t seen any of Boseman’s previous work but I have a feeling that after this performance, we will see the actor in a lot more roles. His performance allows the audience to understand Jackie Robinson and suffer with him. Many may think that what Robinson did was easy because all he had to do was play baseball but Boseman shows how difficult it would have been to have all of this anger built up inside of him but not retaliate. As good as Boseman was though, the true star of 42 was Harrison Ford as the team executive Branch Rickey. I have never seen Ford play a character like this. Rickey is religious but at the same time explosive and frustrated with how Robinson is treated. Ford delivers one of the best scenes in the film when his character reveals the true meaning of why he signed Robinson to the Dodgers.
42 is a movie that I think everyone should see. While the start is a little eye-rolling, there ends up being a big emotional payoff. The entire film has a theme and message of acceptance that a lot of people in this world still don’t understand. Jackie Robinson was more than a baseball player and to this day he will constantly be a symbol of unity. 42 has respectable writing and sound directing and even if you aren’t a fan of drama, there is still enough impressive baseball action for anyone to enjoy. I for one am still disgusted by how much profiling and discrimination there still is in the world. Not just with race, but with sexual orientation, disabilities, etc. It’s nice to see a movie that fights to end just that.