In 1947 he broke the racial barrier in baseball…and in 2012 his film bio broke records at the box office.
The sports film is one of the most interesting film genres there is. Everyone knows about a sport, be it something more American like baseball or football (NFL) or something more worldly like soccer, hockey, or baseball. But to MAKE a great sports film is hard, because you are trying to not only bring in the core fans of that sport, but also the common moviegoer that might of never watched a game of that actual sport in their real lives, but try to make them spend 10 dollars on a fictional/factual film based solely around the sport.
There are great sport films for every sport:
- –Baseball: Major League, The Sandlot, The Natural, Pride of the Yankees, and Field of Dreams.
- –Basketball: He Got Game, Hoosiers, White Men Can’t Jump, and Space Jam.
- –Football: Brian’s Song, Friday Night Lights, The Longest Yard, and Little Giants.
- –Boxing: The Rocky Series (minus Rocky V), Million Dollar Baby, Raging Bull, The Hurricane, and Ali.
Obviously some of those films are more personal pleasures than worldly accepted acclaimed films, but the story still goes, its easier to make a bad sports film than it is to make a good one. One thing that helps is not only a character, but a story that truly matters. Jackie Robinson provides both. He not only is a character of history, but provided one of the most important stories for not only sports, but the history of racism in America.
The film gives us a look at Jackie Robinson’s rookie year. This is rated PG-13, so I automatically thought this film was going to take the ‘Remember The Titans’ approach to racism in non-rated R films, by saying “negro”, “darkie”, or “black” instead of what is the most obvious term used and thrown at Jackie back in the 40’s, nigger. Its hard to say or hard to read, but thankfully the MPAA didn’t make a mistake by censoring this film from using that word throughout the film, because you can’t pretend that Jackie Robinson didn’t hear it every time he stepped to plate or on the field at not only his own home park, but visiting baseball parks around the country.
This film isn’t trying to go too in depth about the state of racism in America at the time, it is simply just showing how Jackie had to survive with his wife and young son while trying to make his way on the diamonds of a ballpark. The film also gives you a very storybook happy ending, one review I read of the film stated that it gives off the idea with one home run, Jackie Robinson ended racism in America, obviously not the case, but for the films sake, it’s a storybook ending to a remarkable rookie season and what would go on to be a Hall of Fame career.
For this film to work you need to be rooting for Jackie from the start and when we first meet him, we easily want to see him succeed to not only his limits but to those that were not allowed for him. I also want to state how enjoyable the entire cast was, not only did Chadwick Boseman make a phenomenal Robinson, Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, Nicole Behaire as Jackie’s wife, Rachel, and Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman all do wonderful work in this film portraying all different but important roles to help guide Jackie Robinson to become the man he would be come.
Every year in April, everyone in the MLB wears that number 42 on their back and while this might not be an all encompassing film of his life, 42 gives a great and entertaining look at his first year in the bigs.
I give it an EIGHT out of a TEN, on the scale of film merit and overall quality.
But I also give it a TIP OF THE CAP out of TEN, on the scale of how important Robinson’s role in baseball truly was.