Movie Review: “42” Educates More Than It Entertains

So, last month, I was 3 feet away from Han Solo. We were, of course, under strict orders to not mention “Indiana Jones” or “Star Wars.” So, I had to come up with something else to ask the man who famously returned an “I love you” from Princess Leia with “I know.”

Left with little else, I asked him about his new movie “42” in which he is unrecognizable as Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. “It’s an important film. It’s an incredible story about a critical step that was taken in confronting the issue of inequality. It was a moment when, ultimately we shined.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t slip any other questions about what it was like to be frozen in Carbonite, or whether the Lost Ark really melted that guy’s face.

So… Han shot first?

It is Ford’s portrayal of Rickey that I will take away from this film. His realistic portrayal with a voice filled with gravel. Rickey’s true intentions to integrate baseball and bring Negroes into the game was less than altruistic, and Ford channeled Rickey in saying that his intentions were “To make money.”

But there were some other outstanding performances in this movie. Chadwick Boseman made a realistic Robinson and his on-screen chemistry with Nicole Beharie, who played Rachel Robinson, was surprising and honest. You could really understand the special love these two had with each other, who often felt it was them against the world.

I particularly liked the performances of two smaller roles in the movie, Alan Tudyk, who steals just about every movie he’s in. He plays the racist manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Ben Chapman. Tudyk has a pivotal scene where he shouts racial epithets at Robinson causing him to nearly break. And John C. McGinley, who you’ll recall from Scrubs and Office Space. He plays famed play-by-play man Red Barber and whose voice you hear throughout the baseball sequences in the film. He did a great job capturing the unique voice of Barber.

In summary, I’ll echo what Jarrod Dyson told me after the movie, it felt a little flat as an entertainment movie. It felt, at times, more like a History Channel movie.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go see it, because you should. The performances alone easily put this movie into the top 3 baseball movies and an important piece of history.

It also helps set a tone for introspection on those of us who watched it.  While Robinson’s integration into Baseball helped lead the way for the Civil Rights Amendment, you need look only to your local Facebook pages to see that there is still ignorance and racism in this world and in our community.  The next front for human rights may be in the area of sexual preference, and yet this year, we may see a “Gay Jackie Robinson” as there are growing rumors of someone coming out of the closet in the National Football League.  No matter the avenue, it’s important to recognize and honor the sacrifice of Jackie Robinson, so that no others will have to suffer the same fate.

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