by Larry Ham
Special coupon for Dinuba Platinum Theatre at the end of this review.
42 is the story of Jackie Robinson’s first two seasons in the Brooklyn Dodger organization; first with the 1946 Montreal Royals, and then with the 1947 Dodgers, becoming the first African-American to play in the modern major leagues.
I was looking forward to this movie with great anticipation. It seems odd to me that Hollywood has taken this long to finally tell the story of one of the most important events of the twentieth century – the breaking of the color barrier in baseball. But as it turns out, the reason for the delay was Jackie’s widow Rachel’s desire to have the story told the way she wanted it told, without the standard bending of the facts Hollywood is famous for. And for that, we should be grateful, because what we get with 42 is a wonderfully made and mostly accurate portrayal of two of the most trying years a human being could go through.
Chadwick Boseman is very good as Jackie Robinson, and Christopher Meloni is spot on as Dodger manager Leo Durocher, but the real standout performance here is Harrison Ford as Dodger President and General Manager Branch Rickey. He looks just like him, sounds just like him and paints a wonderful picture of a man whose Christian faith and basic belief in fairness led him to bring Jackie Robinson to the big leagues.
One of the problems I have had over the years with movies about baseball is the lack of realism when it comes to the action on the field. This movie does an excellent job in that area. Brian Helgeland, who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, deserves great credit for this. This project was obviously a labor of love for him, and he was particularly picky when it came to keeping the story and the action realistic.
If I were to criticize 42 in any area, it would be nothing more than nit picking a couple of factual inaccuracies. In the film, pitcher Kirby Higbe, played by Brad Beyer, is the ringleader of a group of white players who circulate a petition to keep Robinson off the Brooklyn team. In fact, it was Dixie Walker who was the leader of the malcontents, and although Higbe signed the petition, he felt bad enough about it that he spilled the beans to Dodger management and actually sabotaged the efforts of his racist teammates.
The other inaccuracy in the movie is tough to criticize. There is almost no foul language in this film, which is a good thing for kids. It’s an important movie for every kid to see, but the fact of the matter is, Jackie Robinson, Leo Durocher and most baseball players of that era (and today’s era for that matter) had potty-mouths that would make a sailor blush. I cannot stand the over the top filthy language in many of today’s films, and I can understand Brian Helgeland’s desire to paint Jackie Robinson with as positive a brush as possible. A little cursing here and there would have been acceptable, in my opinion, but the absence of profanity did not take anything away from the story.
I would also have appreciated a little more time spent examining the inner conflict that Jackie Robinson faced as he sought to break the color barrier without going berserk and beating the crap out of the people who repeatedly screamed the most vile racial epithets at him.
But those are minor complaints. This is a well done, well acted movie. The subject matter is historically important, and like any really good movie, it should cause all of us to face our prejudices head on. As we were leaving the theater after 42, I found myself asking the same questions I have always asked when it comes to Jackie Robinson and the color barrier in baseball – what took them so long and what were they thinking? I highly recommend this movie for anyone, sports fan or not. It’s a movie you can feel comfortable taking your children to, and it can be the launching point for some very good discussions around the dinner table.
And if you want to learn more about the remarkable life of Jackie Robinson, I would recommend two books. Bums by Peter Golenbock is a history of the Brooklyn Dodgers as told by the players themselves. The other book is a wonderful work of literature, The Boys of Summer, by Roger Kahn. Kahn covered the Dodgers for a New York newspaper in 1952 and 1953, and saw first hand the exploits – on and off the field – of Jackie Robinson. The Boys of Summer is a book about baseball, life, and friendship, just like the movie 42.
42 is currently playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6, also in 3D. Showtimes can be found on their website. Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6 now proudly presents digital quality films in 2-D and 3-D with 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound to maximize your movie experience.