I had the chance to see 42, the Jackie Robinson story. I invited my mother to go with me because I knew she would enjoy it. Mom grew up around the time Robinson went through his courageous experience.
I enjoyed it as well. I like biographical films, especially if they are done accurately and feature great acting. 42 meets these criteria.
The movie has a PG-13 rating, and anyone who has any idea of what the movie is about should not be surprised by such a rating. The “N” word is used excessively throughout the show. There is an uncomfortable scene featuring Phillies manager Ben Chapman, who says this disgusting utterance in similar fashion as one calling chickens.
The details of the historic ballparks were amazing. How they replicated the Polo Grounds, where the former New York Giants played, was a thrill for this sports nut to view. The Polo Grounds featured an unusually deep center field that was uniquely designed with a square notch at straightaway center. The movie made you feel like you were sitting in the stands.
Chadwick Boseman is excellent playing Robinson. He looks like an athlete, and shows some of the attitude Robinson was known to have.
But the star of the show is obvious. Veteran actor Harrison Ford gave an incredible performance as Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey.
Ford is not known for playing historic characters. He hasn’t done impersonations or replicated mannerisms. He made his fame yelling at robots, kissing Princess Leia, bantering with a Wookiee; or wearing a fedora, carrying a whip, hating snakes and collecting priceless artifacts while being chased by villains or a large boulder.
Playing Rickey may have placed Ford at a different level on the acting sphere. The transition is similar to Sean Connery’s, when the Scotsman collected his 1988 Oscar for his role in The Untouchables. Before playing the street cop-turned mentor for Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness, Connery appeared to be washed up as an action movie actor, but he actually enhanced his acting career playing older roles in movies that followed The Untouchables. Perhaps this is a path Ford may take?
Ford’s Rickey appears to be true to character. Rickey comes across in the movie as a combination of shrewd businessman and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. In real life, he actually was a successful manager who stood tall on social issues of the day and made known his Christian faith, even more than what the film reveals.
To get more details about Rickey, read David Prince’s article “The ‘ferocious Christian gentleman’ behind Jackie Robinson’s famous moment.” After reading this piece, I gained even more respect and appreciation for Rickey.
Prince writes “I fear the moniker, ‘ferocious Christian gentleman’ sounds oxymoronic in contemporary evangelical circles where manhood is often reduced to being a nice guy and God is envisioned as a kind of cosmic smiley face. Where Christian discipleship is cheapened to generic niceness, men pursue comfort and respectability in the place of self-sacrificial ‘great experiments’ that demand ferocious Christian gentlemen.”
Men like Rickey are rare today. Not many businessmen are willing to go against culture and stand on Christian principles. As Prince states, “. . . our churches are in desperate need of some ferocious Christian gentlemen.”
The movie 42 does present the harshness of segregation our country experienced, but thankfully, the film also shows the powerful and humble stand both Robinson and Rickey take.