The advent of satellite and cable television has made the world of sports very overwhelming. Much of my Saturdays are of listening to my dad browsing through the golfing channels or maybe a formula one race that happened to be on. But this is a small amount compared to the many other sports also on ranging from classic (like football) to modern (like extreme skateboarding). But given this crazy shuffle, does something as simple as baseball still stand out as America’s past time? I would like to think so, given not just the age of the sport, but with also the amount of tradition baseball has given us.
For most children, one of their first sporting memories is simply playing catch with their parents until the twilight of sunset arrives. With their baseball gloves broken in, it would then be that time to take them to a real game. There, in that little dusty diamond of competition, first-timers can understand what makes the game of baseball really exciting; the cheers of the audience, good luck charms, curses, and the fact that every move matters. This is almost as intoxicating as a religion. Baseball has its share of past figures that helped write the history books. One of these folks is the late Jackie Robinson, the first African-American in the national league. His story is told in the latest biopic, 42.
Rather then telling his life story, the story is focused on his first years playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In the year 1946, Dodgers Executive Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford) is looking for something that will not only lead his team, but change baseball forever. He makes the decision to scout negro players for his team, selecting the statistical high numbered, Jackie Robinson. A scout eventually finds him (played by Chadwick Boseman) at a gas station and offers him the chance of a lifetime.
Robinson arrives in Florida for spring training. He makes friends with an African-American sportswriter names Wendell Smith. Despite prejudice, Robinson shows great skills at shortstop and as a batter, and even gets a position for the Montreal Royals. After a great season, his return to spring training (this time in Panama City) leads him to a position for the Dodgers. The other players have mixed thoughts as some are accepting while others choose the intolerance feelings over their joy of the game. In order for Robinson to win the baseball crowd, he’ll have to face the issues of segregation of the game and come out stronger then the rest.
I’m not going to lie. When I saw the trailer, despite being a baseball fan, I thought that this was going to be an okay movie, as the images I saw seemed to be typical movie biopic scenes of the characters being triumphant over the events they lived through. The story of Jackie Robinson is a good story, but I know a lot of racial-challenging stories that will tell the same thing. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I can say it was better then I thought, though not exactly as good as it could have been.
Let me say that the overall production is great. Harrison Ford blew me away in his rare kind of performance where you only see Branch Rickey and not Indiana Jones. Boseman also makes for a good Jackie Robinson, keeping the character focused and stubborn, yet likable. Even the recreation of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn though computer animation is very impressive. So what’s missing? As I said, I’ve seen many movies about challenging the segregation system already, bit to mention that if you know the story of Jackie Robinson, this is going to come out as a little predictable. This movie could have even shot for the awards season if they could have put more focus onto Robinson’s anger and gone with a grittier baseball story.
I’ll give this four 42 baseball jerseys out of five. Though it’s not the home run this could have been, 42 does tell Jackie Robinson’s story very well. This makes for a better history lesson then anything. At least it is entertaining.