LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- THV 11 Film Critic Jonathan Nettles gives his take on the movie 42, inspired by the true story of Jackie Robinson.
I'm not a baseball fan. I don't watch it and I don't keep up with it. That was different when I was about 10-years-old. There was a time when I collected baseball cards. The only ones I wanted were of the 1989 and 1990 Atlanta Braves. Those were the years of Fred McGriff, Ron Gant, & Terry Pendleton. I would watch the games then and go watch the Arkansas Travelers play at Ray Winder Field just about every weekend in the summer. Then I lost interest and moved on to other things. Since, I've seen a few baseball movies but not a lot which I blame on my lack of interest in the game. I don't know much about the history of the game but I recognize the names that wrote much of it. I had heard about Jackie Robinson but it took a movie to get me interested in Jackie Robinson.
42 is the tale of Jackie Robinson's breakthrough the ranks of baseball to be the first African American to play the game in the Major Leagues, which was a white man's league until the time. It starts off with the hard headed general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers Branch Rickey recognizing that the world is changing and that he might as well be the first one to bring in an African American player in the 1940's. He finds his perfect fit in Jackie Robinson, young, tough player with enough attitude to stand up for himself and enough sense to know how to handle it. The deal they ink and the bond they form is tested by the public, the press, and other players. Knowing the any incident could destroy Robinson and Rickey's their plans, they let the play on the field do the talking, ultimately winning over the team and silencing the critics.
42 has a really good cast. Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey is still recognizable as himself but there are moments when he really becomes a 1940's era baseball executive. He plays Rickey as a man with great wisdom and little tolerance for those without it. Chadwick Boseman plays number 42, Jackie Robinson. He does a fine job with it, showing the anger as he's hit with onslaughts of racial insults and threats but keeping it just under the surface while recognizing the bigger picture. The rest of the cast is full of great supporters and bit players including Christopher Meloni, Lucas Black, John C. McGinley and T.R. Knight.
It's nice to see a baseball movie that is really about baseball. Yes, it is the story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier but it's still about a man who is a great baseball player who just wants to play ball. There's not argument that it is a movie about civil rights but at the forefront and at the heart of it, it's a movie about the game of baseball.
My only complaint about 42 is that I wish it was longer. It has a runtime of over 2 hours but I found myself wanting to know more about Jackie Robinson. I wanted to know how the story ended. I guess you could argue that to know how it ends I just need to turn on a game but I wanted to see it lived out through Robinson's eyes and it made me think about the first people to do other things. Who were the first people to break through the lines of prejudice and discrimination? We teach our children about those kinds of things in school but it's really just a brush stroke on the canvas of history.
I suggest taking your kids to see it. It's rated PG-13 for a little bad language and lot of use of the N-word. I think it's a good idea to show kids how things were, how far we've come, and more importantly how far we have to go.