‘42’ provides uplifting look at the trials and triumphs of Jackie Robinson
Even the most casual of baseball fans is aware of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. His courage as he faced the most infective racism daily is the central theme in 42, a by-the-book movie biography that leans toward the uplifting aspect of this ugly period in history.
The film uses one particularly horrifying example to represent the vicious nature of the racism that Robinson faced almost daily, but more often the film, written and directed by Brian Helgeland (screenwriter of L.A. Confidential), accepts the positive in this tale about how one man changed a sport and eventually a nation with his determination and his skill. Trailblazer that he was, Robinson would not have stayed in baseball if he didn’t belong there on merit.
Covering a two year period that included his minor league career and his first year in the National League as the Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman, Robinson (36-year-old newcomer Chadwick Boseman) is told by Brooklyn GM Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford as a grumpy old man with a soft side) that is looking for someone who has the guts not to fight back when faced with racial taunts. The worst of those taunts come from the manager of the Phillies, Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk).
We see Robinson and his quietly tough-minded wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie), face the racism from outside the Dodgers organization and inside the organization, when several players signed a petition saying they didn’t want to play with him. Robinson’s abilities and his courage made his less enthusiastic teammates change their minds — and the ones that didn’t got traded to the baseball equivalent of Siberia, Pittsburgh.
Boseman is fabulous at conveying the rage he kept in check and thankfully he looks like a ballplayer, and Ford has a blast as the man who decided to blow up the gentleman’s agreement that baseball was for white players only. And, while one might argue that Robinson is portrayed as a little too flawless, that is the nature of most screen biographies.
This film reminds us that how we feel about our sports figures mirrors how we feel about our nation. In this post-war era change was needed and Robinson delivered that change by being both a great ballplayer and a great man.
Since this issue of Atlantic City Weekly is devoted to comedy (did you notice?) here are a few quick picks for comedy movies coming out this summer.
The Hangover Part III — The finale will hopefully make us forget the mediocre middle movie in the series. (May 24)
Michael Bay, the director famous for putting the biggest bang in big-bang movies and conversely, the least amount of character development and emotional connection in his big-screen efforts, thinks he is presenting a change of pace with his so-called comedy Pain & Gain.