42 Movie Review
Kidzworld reviews the new movie 42 about cool civil rights pioneer and baseball great Jackie Robinson.
By: Lynn Barker
Jackie Robinson was amazing at multiple sports but it was baseball that made him famous. When Jackie became the first black baseball player in the major leagues on the all-white Brooklyn Dodger team he was told “You’ll have to be brave enough NOT to fight back”. That’s a true hero. 42 is part of his story.
Black sports reporter Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) looks back on his 1945 through 1950 career, most of which consisted of writing about baseball sports hero Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). In 1947, Brooklyn Dodger General Manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) decided to put a talented black player on the all white team. Up until then, black people only played in the “Negro Leagues”. He starts looking for just the right player.
Jackie was a UCLA short stop who had a military career but was court-martialed for refusing to sit in the back of the bus. Rickey likes that kind of spirit. He starts Jackie out on minor league team the Montreal Royals. Both know that, despite his excellent playing, Jackie will have to endure racial slurs and more. Jackie swears he’ll have the courage to not fight back. With a new career ahead, Jackie marries his long-time love Rachel (Nicole Beharie).
Introduction to Prejudice
Having been raised in Pasadena, California, the newlyweds are in for a horrible shock when hitting the South (Florida) for Spring training. They can’t get used to toilet facilities marked “White Only” and both suffer several indignities when they break the local segregation rules. In Pensacola, they meet Wendell Smith, a reporter who is assigned as Jackie’s assistant. Finally in Montreal, Jackie is teased, rejected and humiliated by the white players. Rickey tells his manager to make the team shape up and treat Jackie right.
New Baby, New Struggle
Jackie and Rachel have their first son and Jackie is put on the Dodgers team. Some of the players sign a petition saying they won’t play with him on the team. Popular player Pee Wee Reese won’t sign. “Let him show what he’s got”. Players are told to shape up or be fired. The first game, Jackie is both booed and cheered. He faces bad calls by the prejudiced umpire and the horribly racist Phillies manager yells racial slurs and disgusting insults at Jackie when he is at bat. Jackie hits homers anyway but it starts to get to him. Jackie walks off the field and breaks his bat on a cement wall. Rickey tells him he’s respected and is a hero to many. He has to hold it in. Finally, one of the Dodger players tells the manager to shut up for the sake of the game.
Jackie Breaks Through
Ultimately, Jackie gets so many fans that even the racist Phillies manager has to fake “making up” with him. The other players gradually start defending Jackie. Pee Wee Reese, a respected Southern player, gets hate mail but, when Jackie is booed at a game, it’s Pee Wee who steps up on the field and puts his arm around him. Incidents of hatred continue (Jackie is spiked intentionally) but most of the Dodger players are finally on his side. Rickey finally admits to Jackie that, many years ago, he didn’t support a great black player when he was treated badly. By helping Jackie, he’s able to live with himself and love the game again. Jackie’s playing helps the team head for the World Series.
Although 42 seems to drag a little in spots, it is very well-acted and the baseball action is exciting. What makes the film a “must see” is the inspiring human story. Some of the rougher scenes of racial prejudice are hard to sit through no matter what race an audience member is but the way Robinson is portrayed at handling these attacks is nothing short of heroic. You’ll cry and you’ll definitely root for him!
Talented Chadwick Boseman is wonderful as Jackie. You can see the pain subtly seething on his face and the massive amount of self-control Robinson must have had to not respond when harassed. Jackie’s human, loving family man side is portrayed just as well although it seems odd that, according to the film, Jackie and wife Rachel just never had a fight (yeah, right). Since Mrs. Robinson is still alive and a consultant on the movie, this omission might have been out of respect for her.
Some scenes are a bit tedious as all the behind-the-game discussions and strategy meetings etc. are covered but Harrison Ford is amazing in those scenes and almost unrecognizable as manager Branch Rickey. He and Chad Boseman are wonderful in their exchanges together.
Jackie Robinson’s example might very well have opened the door for the civil rights movement in America but 42 tells the smaller story by concentrating on Robinson and Rickey, two men doing the right thing when it was almost impossible to do so. For an emotional and entertaining tribute to an American hero, we go 4 out of 5 stars.
42 Movie Rating: