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Sunday, May 12, 2013

"42" Jackie Robinson's Story: Beautiful, Inspirational, Must-See

"42" about Jackie Robinson, the first African American major league baseball player, is a beautiful, inspirational, must-see movie. "42" has been accused of being corny. For heaven's sake, it IS corny. Jackie Robinson was a true hero, as was Branch Rickey, the white man who decided to break the color line in baseball. This is an old-fashioned, all-American, even Christian story that makes you tear up and get goosebumps. "42" is about good v evil. The bad guys in this movie are repellant scum. The good guys are true heroes of historic proportions. I wish more people would see this film.

It's the late 1940s. America has defeated Nazism. It's time for the Civil Rights movement to defeat white supremacy in the US. Baseball executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) selects Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to be the first African American player on a major league team. This choice puts Robinson's life at risk.

Pitchers attempt to hit Robinson in the head with their balls. Base-runners drive their spiked heels into his legs. Philadelphia Phillies' Ben Chapman hectors Robinson when he is at bat. Chapman repeats ugly, disgusting insults. Robinson is powerless to silence Chapman. Hotel owners won't allow any members of the same team as Robinson to rent rooms. Robinson's own teammates shun him and sign a petition protesting his inclusion. Robinson must wait until his teammates are done in the shower room before he can shower. While his teammates are given lockers, he is given only a peg with a hanger. Toughs arrive at his house and threaten him so badly he must be driven out of town. Letter writers threaten to harm his wife and child.

Robinson's heroism in facing all this is the inspiration. Branch Rickey is also a hero. He was a devout Christian. He chides an interlocutor, "Love they neighbor as thyself. That is repeated eight times in the Bible, more than any other commandment."

"42" isn't an especially deep film. It does not probe deeply into any of its characters. It presents the history of baseball's integration in a fairly straightforward, easy to follow way. Production values are high. The 1940s era is captured in vintage clothes, cars, ballpark ads and architecture.

Chadwick Boseman is handsome, heroic, and stoic as Jackie Robinson. Nicole Beharie is incredibly beautiful as his wife Rachel. Harrison Ford is a bit hammy as Branch Rickey, but he's Harrison Ford, so he can get away with it.

I loved this movie and I wish everyone would see it. We need more such "corny" films.

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