I’m a big baseball fan, so I was excited to see this movie as soon as I heard about it. The release date of April 12th coinciding with the start of the baseball season, as well as Jackie Robinson Day on April 15th (when every MLB player sports #42 in his honor), felt appropriate and was clever marketing.
In case you live under a rock and/or you happened to go to one of the few elementary schools that didn’t require its students to write a report on a famous black person for Black History Month, Jackie Robinson was the first African American Major League Baseball player, who played first and second base with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 through 1956. After doing a little research about Robinson, I discovered that one detail that was left out in those grade school reports was that he wasn’t really the first black player in the majors, only of the of the modern era. What I mean by “the modern era” is after the Negro Leagues, which existed for about 60 years, starting in the 1880s. There were actually some black players in the major leagues before the Negro League started. However, this does not make Robinson’s accomplishments any less impressive.
I have a whole new respect for Jackie Robinson after actually seeing and hearing the racism that he had to endure. In one scene, a Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher even hits him in the head. (Speaking of which, it made me wonder what the hell took so long for helmets to be made mandatory.) Some of the behavior and racial slurs coming from the crowd, coaches from other teams, and umpires was truly disgusting to watch for someone who was brought up in a generation where it’s no longer socially acceptable to be blatantly racist. Sure, racism is unfortunately still alive and well in America, but it exists on a more underground level, compared to 60 years ago when it was considered the norm.
Newcomer Chadwick Boseman did a fantastic job. I’m glad the producers cast an unknown because it made it easier to believe that he really was Jackie Robinson. It would be cool to see him be recognized with an Oscar nomination, but even more importantly, I hope this will be the start of a long career. The supporting actors were great as well, particularly Lucas Black as Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers shortstop who supported and stood up for Robinson the most during his rough first years on the team, and Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman, the unapologetically racist Phillies manager who was one of Robinson’s worst tormentors. Tudyk was so convincing in the role, it was hard not to hate him. Then of course, there’s the legendary Harrison Ford as Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, the man who helped break the color barrier by deciding to sign Robinson. I didn’t realize just how old Harrison Ford is until I saw him in this. He was almost unrecognizable, and really disappeared in his role. At 71 years old, he still looks good for his age though.
It was great to see how his teammates went from signing a petition against him playing with them to gradually accepting and respecting him. The only problem I had with the film was that it ended very abruptly. I was shocked when the concluding notes of what happened to all the characters started rolling, as they typically do in films based on true stories. I felt like they stopped telling his story too early. Aside from that, I was very impressed with the film’s authenticity and honest portrayal of the characters and time period.
42 has already proven to be a hit. It opened at number one at the box office, and it broke some records for baseball-themed movies. At $9.1 million, it had the best opening day ever, and at $27.3 million, it had the best opening weekend. This will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest baseball movies of all time. In my book, it’s right up there with The Sandlot and A League of Their Own. What’s great about 42 is that it’s far more than just a baseball movie. It’s a movie about overcoming obstacles, staying strong during difficult times, believing in yourself, and standing up for what is right.