On April 15, 2013, every Major League Baseball player donned a jersey with the number ’42’ on the back in honor of Jackie Robinson. This past weekend, the movie “42” made its debut in theaters around the country. It out-performed every other film at the box office just as Jackie Robinson out-performed every other rookie in 1947 to be selected ‘Rookie of the Year.’ That was the year too when Robinson singhandedly broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. It’s hard to believe now but until in 1947 MLB was an all white sport. The Brooklyn Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey, gets credit for signing Robinson and sticking by this courageous man when abuse and verbal trash were heaped upon him by fans at home and away.
In this film, writer/director Brian Helgelend presents the rookie season of Jackie Robinson’s brilliant career and that is all. The film is straightforward and a moving tribute to Mr. Robinson’s courage and restraint. Branch Rickey, who owned the Brooklyn Dodgers, said to Robinson, “I know you have the guts to fight back, what I do not know is whether you have the guts not to fight back.” He means, not to fight back when you are taunted with racial slurs, cursing and trash talking by racist fans, fellow players and managers. Robinson had the guts not to fight back and in so doing paved the way for Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and black and brown players. Like Gandhi and Martin Luther King’ Jr, he refused to be brought down to the level of his tormentors.
This delightful film is rated PG-13 for the language and racism in portrays in post World War II America. Mrs. Rachel Robinson was at Dodger Stadium Monday night along with Magic Johnson to pay homage to her late husband and a genuine American hero. Young Mr. Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in the film, has a promising career in prospect. But it is hard to imagine his ever having a more noble character to portray on film. Harrison Ford has come a long way since Stars Wars. Both actors give worthy performances that may be noticed by the Oscar voters later this coming year. Both characters are Methodists who take their faith in God seriously. I would want teens and young adults in particular see this very fine film.