Saturday, April 13, 2013

Movie Review : 42 - The Story of an American Legend

Baseball has been around for over a century and what we see on the field today is accepted by all that watch and enjoy but some people don't realize that integration didn't happen til 1947 and this film shows how one Jackie Robinson fought the battle to be the first black man to play in a white man's sport.

The film jumps right into the story on how Jackie ( Chadwick Boseman ) is recruited by one Branch Rickey ( Harrison Ford ) who is employed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch wants to be the first man to bring integration to baseball and he wants a man that is not too nice so gets eaten up by everybody but can't have a man that will fight at every offense towards him. He needs someone that can turn a cheek and take what undoubtedly will be a hard and painful journey to the big leagues.

Jackie is placed in the minor league system of the Dodgers and after just a year his contract is purchased by the major league team. Though the minor leagues did have some bumps in the road it is nothing compared to what awaits him in the big leagues. After an attempted coo by the team they reluctantly accept Jackie onto the team due to the fact that they are informed that he is the first of many blacks that will be making it to the majors and they better get used to it. Rachel ( Nicole Beharie ) becomes Jackie's wife prior to his venture into the Dodger organization and she is vital to his sanity as he looks to her for that calming voice.

Once on the Brooklyn Dodgers his is immediately subjected to numerous death threats and racial slurs while all he just wants to do is play ball. His team evidently warms up to him as a teammate if not a person. The two most in his corner are Ralph Branca and Pee Wee Reese. Both vital players to the team. As the team travels to various cities they are sometimes not allowed to stay at hotels or the opposing team threatens to just forfeit the game as they will not take the field if a black man is on it with them. Jackie is soon physically attacked on the field by opposing players as he is beaned and spiked. His team begins to rally around Jackie as they see that he is a man that just wants to do what they are also doing and just because he is black that shouldn't be a reason he can't. They start to show support in front of others by putting their arm around him or verbally attacking the other team in defense of Jackie.

The film only shows his first year in the big leagues and ends with the team winning the National League pennant. They play the Yankees in the World Series which they don't show as the team losses to them in the first of many losses with Jackie against the Yankees. The final image is of Jackie celebrating a win with his white teammates that while probably still weary of having him on the team are at least learning to accept that he is here to stay and that he is a decent ballplayer.

Verdict : Since the film only deals with his first year and it is rated PG-13 they can only show so much. It shows a good summary of what the team and Jackie had to go through but glosses over a lot of things and people. There is no mention of Walter O'Malley the owner of the team and his input into this whole project nor how much his wife helped him through. To this day she helps with integration in Jackie's name. Harrison Ford as Branch is probably the most enjoyable part to watch as he really dives into his role and from all the books I have read on the Dodgers he plays Branch pretty well. The film also does not show how after the first year Jackie was given the permission to be a little more aggressive on the field and this was agreed upon by Branch and Jackie in the beginning. Branch said give me one year and then do what you have do per se. I understand that you can only put so much into a 2 hour movie but I would have liked them to show his contributions to the team during his whole tenure. They could have done it in actual game footage from the time but that is a bit of nit picking.

From the a baseball and Dodger fan I give this a big THUMBS UP. If you are a history buff you will enjoy this important time in America history as well. If you do not fall into any of these categories you will still enjoy it but probably won't walk away thinking it was a great movie but just a good drama about a sport. Either way it is worth a view.

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