Anthony's Film Review
A biopic of baseball great Jackie Robinson that is inspiring enough to be worth seeing...
As far as Hollywood biographical films go, just about every history-making figure you can think of will eventually have a movie about him or her. It's no surprise that a feature-length film about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American professional baseball player in Major League Baseball, would eventually hit theaters on April 12, 2013 (three days before April 15, when everyone on every MLB team wears Robinson's jersey number, 42, as an annual tribute to him). I will say right now that this particular biopic of Robinson (who is played by Chadwick Boseman) is far from being an incredibly great film, but it's still a decent one. It certainly gives people an idea of what Robinson went through.
Before I talk about the character of Robinson, I want to first mention the one fact I learned from this movie that I never knew before. According to what's portrayed here, Robinson didn't fight to get into the major leagues in the 1940s. Rather, the opportunity was given to him by Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford), the executive for the Brooklyn Dodgers who, perhaps because of his faith in God as a Methodist, wanted to perform the extraordinary action of admitting the first black baseball player for the MLB. He knows perfectly well the risk he's taking, given the racial climate at the time, but that doesn't stop him from doing what's right.
Robinson is a rather interesting choice to have as the first black MLB player. Aside from having great player stats on paper, Robinson has a lovely girlfriend named Rachel (played by Nicole Beharie) who would soon be his wife, attended UCLA, and is an all-around decent man. As a result, this is a character who is just as admirable as Rickey. Robinson also follows an inspiring journey through professional sports, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of a Negro baseball league and the minor league Montreal Royals before signing with the Dodgers for the 1947 season. As shown in the film, he's not just a good batter. He's also skilled with stealing bases, sometimes stealing his way around the diamond back to home plate.
In contrast to Robinson and Rickey, there are plenty of characters whose racial prejudice is apparent. There are members of the Dodgers who are uncomfortable with playing on the same team as Robinson, even going as far as to start a petition to not play alongside this black man. What's nice is that a few of them eventually warm up to Robinson's presence on the team. Even so, there are racist baseball players on other teams, including the Pittsburg Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Philadelphia Phillies. Speaking of which, there is a notable scene where the Phillies manager is constantly insulting Robinson when he goes up to bat. Thankfully, as the epilogue explains, that manager eventually gets what he deserves.
Unlike many other biopics, 42 doesn't involve a crescendo and a climactic finale. The final scene before the epilogue is rather low-key in comparison, but it's still effective in that it symbolizes Robinson's greatness as a ball player and his impact on the entire league. Overall, I still consider 42 to be a moving story about a timeless theme: beating the odds to achieve great success. This movie may not score a home run, but it still scores a point in my book for telling an interesting story about one of the most significant times in sports history.
For more information about 42, visit the Internet Movie Database.