42— More than Just a Number

“Robinson’s a Methodist,”

“I’m a Methodist,”

“God’s a Methodist, what could go wrong?”

This is the famous retort of Branch Rickey (played rather well by Harrison Ford) to a query by one of Rickey’s underlings who suggested there would be big trouble if Rickey insisted on breaking the color barrier in 1947 in the Big Leagues.

The movie ’42′ has been out for some while now, and is in its second run in the discount theaters, and no doubt will already be on Netflix, and then DVD. As baseball movies go, this is one of the best. Indeed, even if it were not a movie about baseball, it is still an excellent film. The story of Jackie Robinson was overdue for a silver screen production. Kudos to Brian Helgeland and others who wanted to get this story right. Being a Southerner, I have to confess that movies about racism are always emotional for me, whether we are talking about a movie like 42 or a movie like The Help. The unveiling of the ugly sin that is racism always makes me weep, because I saw so much of it growing up. And in a small way, I could identify with Jackie Robinson because I realized that I had to respond to that situation by being a better person than the bigots, being a more Christ like person in responding to that sort of hatred and vitriol. One of the most moving scenes in the film is when Rickey tells Jackie, “you have to turn the other cheek, like our Savior” or when Rickie tells the owner of another Major League Club who insisted that Robinson not be on the roster for the games in his town that one day, he would have to answer to ‘the Judge’ for suggesting such a thing. Yes, there is a deep vein of Christianity in this film and it is channeled right through both Rickey and Robinson.

The acting in this film is first rate. Here is a little flavor of the film…

Lucas Black as Pee Wee Reese was an especially good counterpart to Chadwick Boseman’s fine performance as Jackie. Christopher Meloni was terrific as Leo Durocher and Nicole Beharie was mighty fine as Rachel Robinson. The film does not attempt to do a thorough going biopic of Robinson, but simply chronicles his rise to the Big Leagues and his first real season there.

The dialogue is often excellent, the cinematography is beautiful, the acting is good, and at 2 hours and 8 minutes the movie has no filler, no dead spots, indeed, one could have wanted more. It is an excellent film to show to discuss the issue of racism and what the Christian response should be to racism. While it may not have the sweep of a Field of Dreams, or the mythology of the Natural, what it has is a true story that is still sadly relevant today in so many ways. Kudos to the producers who knew they needed to get out of the way and let the true story tell itself.

  • James Mace

    Thanks for the Christian references, and I’ll watch this soon. If you, like me, don’t have anything against a 63-yr-old film, you can watch Jackie Robinson play himself in “The Jackie Robinson Story” (1950). And thanks for stimulating me to find out about all the national black/colored professional baseball leagues which flourished (even while excluding white players).

  • Jon Altman

    Came out on DVD yesterday (7/16)


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