I love baseball. I grew up around it and the game is something that has become a part of my life. Whether it is rooting on my dad’s team or my beloved Texas Rangers, it is something that I am looking at each and every day. So naturally a Jackie Robinson movie would appeal to me. The trailers were rap music pounding and focused on the strength of Robinson and his growth into a legend.
I was afraid for the first forty-five minutes as the pacing of the story was going into hyper speed and leaving so much development in the dust. Luckily, with the help of Branch Rickey, as he picked up Jackie after he broke down during his game against Philadelphia, he also picked this movie up, dusted it off, and let it run.
The film follows Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) from his entrance into professional baseball with Montreal and follows into his first year with the Dodgers. Boseman, a relatively new face, does a spot on job portraying Robinson that at times I honestly thought they just cast Jackie as himself. But that was mainly because of his looks. Besides that, Boseman presented a lot of strength in the role and fit that calm demeanor that Robinson had to carry in order to accomplish his mission.
While Boseman was great, the show was stolen by a fantastic performance out of Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. Ford really ran with this role and breathed a lot of life into Rickey. His statement scene came when Robinson was absolutely broken down after taking heckling from the Phillies manager. As I said before, this scene changed the movie’s course and started to really dive into the characters and the central issue of racial equality.
While this issue was clearly the central antagonist for the whole film, it never felt like it was really challenging Robinson until that scene. We were given instances of Robinson being ostracized for the color of his skin but never was he driven to a low enough point that he broke down. That was what made the scene in the clubhouse so powerful, this great legend was on his knees and wanting to quit. But Rickey picked him up and the film went on to finish strongly.
After this the racial issues were challenges to Robinson. Whether it was a teammate yelling at him for having the team kicked out of a hotel or an opposing pitcher hitting him in the head, the issues became more personal and drove the point that baseball needed change very well. The film was given the opportunity to rally not only the team, but everyone watching, around Robinson and did a great job of doing that.
42 is not the greatest sports movie ever, it isn’t even the greatest baseball movie ever. But for someone who loves the game, it was a refreshing take on one of it’s greatest heroes. The cast gave great performances and some great moments but in the end, it was a moderately well done film but something that I would happily watch again.