by Rod D. Martin
April 13, 2013
Obviously, most people will feel obligated to at least say they’re going to see 42, the Jackie Robinson movie.
But you really should go see it. Twice or more. With as many friends as you can take with you.
42 shows much more than the integration of baseball, or the struggles and successes of the still-amazingly talented Jackie Robinson. Those things are there, and unendingly worthwhile.
But 42 also shows the forces behind integration, in this case, the unshakeable Christian faith of Dodgers part-owner, President and General Manager Branch Rickey (played brilliantly by Harrison Ford), and matched by that of Robinson himself (meticulously brought to life by Chadwick Boseman). It is Rickey’s Christianity which leads him to integrate the team, and Robinson’s which enables him to overcome the deluge of hate poured out upon him. Together, their story is likely to prove the most inspiring of the year.
Director Brian Helgeland doesn’t stop at that. He also shows how market forces encouraged the decision: Jim Crow was not simply evil, it was very bad business. Black ball players meant black fans in the stands, Rickey’s stated motive for those unable or unready to hear his deeper views.
The net effect is extraordinary: a highly entertaining, extremely well-executed sports film showing the power of markets and of faith to conquer bigotry, hate, and deep-seated but wicked cultural norms. A strong performance by the beautiful Nicole Beharie as Robinson’s morally upright, thoroughly supportive girlfriend-then-wife only adds to the message sent and delivered: that light faithfully followed drives out even the most entrenched darkness, even between white and black.
A last point: Robinson could not have achieved reconciliation between races had he not first been excellent at his craft. Far too many in today’s churches practice a sort of “mediocrity for Jesus”: Jackie Robinson was excellent in every single respect. In this way he was able to earn his position, and then use it to triumph in a vastly more important game. Had he just been one more nice guy “just getting by”, he never would have gotten to the plate.
This is a must-see. Take everyone you can. It’s powerful, it’s moving, and it deserves support.