Let me get something out of the way, I hate baseball. Luckily, 42 isn't really a baseball movie. Of course, the Jackie Robinson bio-pic has plenty of scenes of at the ballpark and showing his athleticism, but it's much more of a civil rights story than it is a sports movie.
42 is a solid movie and important story. It's the type of movie that will join the ranks of Stand and Deliver and Lean on Me, as movies shown in a junior high class room on a sub day. The kind of movie that a kid will enjoy once or twice, but learn to hate it when forced to watch it repeatedly.
Although it's a big studio picture and has the star power of Harrison Ford, it has the vibe of a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. Harrison Ford did not need to be in 42. Ford plays Branch Rickey, a Major League Baseball executive intent on breaking the color barrier in the game he loves. Although Rickey is instrumental in the story, 42 devotes far too much screen time to the character. Rickey's motive and sentiment are expressed in a repetitive manner. If a lesser known actor had been cast in the part, I'm sure that several scenes would have been eliminated. I wish this had been the case, as although Ford is a fine actor, his being cast did not add significantly to the movie.
As it should be, the scene stealer in the movie is Chadwick Boseman, who plays Jackie Robinson. He completely carries the movie and although he has already been in a number of movies and television shows, I feel like this movie will be a career changer for him. He shines.
One huge casting surprise was Alan Tudyk playing the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. My experience with Tudyk has comedic roles and affable characters, I almost didn't recognize him spewing hateful racial slurs and being such a despicable character.
The movie serves as a scary reminder that it wasn't too long ago that segregation laws were still in effect. I found it interesting that the Robinson's were from Pasadena and although I'm sure they experienced racism in Pasadena, they did not see segregated facilities until they traveled in the south. My parents moved from Southern California to Virginia in the early 1960's and although my parents were white, they were just as shocked by the Jim Crow laws. Living in Los Angeles, it's sometimes easy to forget that America is a very diverse country.
Although things are slowly getting better, racism is clearly still a problem today. One recent example to hit the news was country singer Darius Rucker receiving a racist comment via twitter. A person, who has since had their Twitter account closed, wrote the following comment to Rucker, "Leave country to the white folk". Rather than let the comment slide, Rucker responded with "I'll take my Grand Ole Opry membership and leave your racism. " As horrible as it is that the comment was ever made, I think it's a positive thing that Ruckus responded to it and in general the response has been that racist comments will not be tolerated. People need to express out loud what won't be tolerated and stick up for what they believe in. Dialogue is important. The change is slow, but it's happening. I think it will happen more and more, as the generations become distanced from those who grew up during segregation.
The movie also made a nice parallel to currently civil rights battles, namely the gay rights movement. As a society, I think that one day we will look back and be ashamed by the anti-gay protests and use of derogatory slurs. It's a change that will also come slowly, but surely, it's a change that will be made. 42 isn't just a story about fighting racism, but a story about battling discrimination wherever it may occur.
When I was in elementary school, my mom bought me a series of books called Value Tales. Each book featured a Historical figure whose actions exhibited a certain value. In the series, the value of courage was the book featuring Jackie Robinson. The movie 42 isn't a movie about baseball, it's a movie about courage.