MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Warner Brother's Pictures
Directed by Brian Helgeland. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford.
I confess that I’m not much of a baseball fan, although I’m a big fan of baseball movies. Baseball makes for great drama and great comedy. The slow pace of the game creates a place where team members can interact with one another and reveal all of the personality quirks that are a part of the profession.
Including racist slurs.
In 1946, as WWII ended, Jackie Robinson (Boseman) was recruited by Branch Rickey (Ford) to play for the Montreal Royals and then the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African-American in major league baseball. Rickey was intentional in his choice of Robinson – he wanted to break down the racial barrier that kept black players in the Negro leagues.
Before hiring him, Rickey asked Robinson if he could deal with abusive comments and keep his cool.
“You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?”, said Robinson.
“No,” answered Rickey. “I want a player who's got the guts not to fight back.”
Rickey and Robinson were both Methodists and the two men forged a professional and personal relationship that demonstrated to the world what Christ meant when he said “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
It helped that Jackie Robinson was a phenomenal ball player, and “42” shows how his faith, determination and skill were able to overcome the noise of thousands of fans booing his time at bat.
“42” is more than a testimony to Jackie Robinson. It is a loving reenactment of postwar America and how things were sixty years ago. I have heard more than a few persons tell me that they wished they could have lived back in the fifties, when churches were filled to the brim and American was the leader of the free world. Then, quickly adding: “Well, except for the racism.”
The movie doesn’t romanticize the lonely life Jackie Robinson led. Pitchers aim for his head and Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, relentlessly taunts him every inning. But Robinson has the support of his loving wife (Nicole Beharie) and teammates Ralph Branca (Hamish Linklater) and Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black).
“42” reminds us how far we have come in half a century. Listening to famed broadcaster Red Barber (John C. McGinley) announce a ball game is about as old-timey as it gets.
In many ways “42” is a traditional biopic and very old-fashioned in its storytelling. But Harrison Ford is having a great time playing Rickey and Boseman brings a quiet dignity to his portrayal of Robinson.
Because of the strong language, younger children should probably not be exposed to this film (Older children should; this movie is full of teachable moments). The good news is that there’s a family-friendly film from 1950 called “The Jackie Robinson Story” starring Jackie Robinson as himself! (Available to stream on iTunes and Amazon Video for $2.99)
Five halos: A reminder about the persistence of prejudice and the courage and faith required to overcome it.
Two pitchforks: Discreet scenes of adultery; smoking and drinking; occasional strong language, with the strongest reserved for racial slurs.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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