Release Date: April 12, 2013
Running Time: 128 minutes
The Jackie Robinson biography 42 offers an unflinching look at the baseball player’s successful efforts to break the sport’s color barrier in the late 1940s. TV actor Chadwick Boseman offers a powerful study in courage and tenacity as the first African-American to play for a major league baseball team. Directed with empathy and admiration by L.A. Confidentialscreenwriter Brian Helgeland, 42 wastes no time dropping Robinson into the middle of a racial firestorm. He’s taunted and threatened, first as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league team the Montreal Royals and then when he’s brought up to the majors. Helgeland refuses to pull any punches when it comes to depicting Robinson’s treatment at the hands of many outraged Americans who want to keep baseball white. The N-word is used frequently, but whether it’s uttered with contempt or in a matter-of-fact manner, Helgeland ensures this racial epithet never loses its hateful meaning. Robinson’s defining moment comes during a game between the Dodgers and the Phillies. The opposing manager, Ben Chapman, comes out of the dugout to verbally abuse Robinson while he’s at bat. It’s during this game that Robinson comes to understand why Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey asked him at the time of his signing to turn the other cheek under such circumstances. Robinson’s first at-bat is uncomfortable to watch as Chapman insults him. When Robinson takes the plate for the final time in the game, he cuts Chapman down to size by allowing his bat to speak for him. It’s a rousing moment, one that illustrates in simple fashion the legitimatized hate and fear that African-Americans faced in the days before and immediately after desegregation. As Rickey, Harrison Ford is as compassionate as he is committed to his decision to make history alongside Robinson. Baseball has rightfully retired Robinson’s jersey number 42 for his heroic efforts on and off the field. Sadly, Major League Baseball has experienced an alarming decline in the number of African-American players, dropping from 19 percent in 1986 to 8.5 percent today, according to the New York Times. Hopefully, by depicting Robinson’s trial and tribulations, the occasionally predictable but ulimately feel-good 42 will inspire a generation of young African-Americans to follow Robinson down the path he once walked alone.
Aired: April 11, 2013
Web site: http://42movie.warnerbros.com/