Monday, April 22, 2013

Movie Review: 42

As more generations continue, the more the Civil Rights movement becomes "ancient" history.  But we have to remember that there were pioneers in the fight against racism even before the movement.  Jackie Robinson was one of those pioneers.  Like many individuals who were not world leaders but whose actions still led to important changes in America, Jackie Robinson's name will rarely (if ever) appear in a history book.  That does not, however, lessen the significance of his contribution.

42 takes us through Jackie's life from the time when Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey (fabulously portrayed by Harrison Ford--I see an Oscar nomination and possible win,) was choosing one man from the pool of talented Black players from the minor leagues up until the end of Jackie's first season in the majors.

There are 3 things that make this film great:  the cast, the pace, and the slice of time being shown.

Each member of the cast, from the gruff and salty Ford, the determined Chadwick Boseman as Jackie (a breakthrough performance,) to the teammates, managers, and Nicole Beharie who plays Rachel Robinson--is giving 100%.  Ford is the most recognizable, which is a good thing, because you focus more on the characters.

The pace was very well done.  The love story, the highs and lows of what Jackie dealt with that first year were just enough to educate and entertain, while still moving the story forward.  At the end, a few sentences of information were given on those who were profiled. What I already knew about Jackie Robinson was enhanced greatly by seeing this movie, including some very special information about the #42.

Some things to know if you plan to take your kids:  the film runs 2 hours, but is never slow or boring.  There is "PG's" worth of swearing, but the "n" word is used frequently (especially in one scene where the Pittsburgh manager was being particularly horrible.)  Still, that word was used a lot at the time, so it felt more historically accurate than offensive. (Of course, others may feel differently.) That is probably what earned the film a PG-13 rating. The only violence is a scuffle outside a hotel and a scuffle on the field. There is no nudity, no F-word.  One sh-word.

If you plan to discuss the film and its story with your child, I recommend it highly.  I think it is appropriate for kids as young as 10, but make it a learning experience.  I was especially touched by a scene in which a father and son were sitting in the bleachers, and the son was taken aback at everyone shouting at Jackie to get off the field until his father joined in, at which point the son joined in too.  It was a short, but very powerful, commentary on the influence parents have on their children's beliefs.

Again, a very worthwhile film to see, perhaps even one that will eventually find its way into classrooms.  I hope so.

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