42 (2013)

Released to DVD August 14, 2013. PG Coarse language. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nichole Beharie. Writer/Director Brian Helgeland

Sometimes I wonder about film titles. For instance, what does Pacific Rim  mean in a film about giant robotic machines?

Only baseball fans know what 42  really means. Nevertheless, 42  is a market for Christians irrespective of whether they gravitate to sports.

This movie is about Jackie Robinson’s (Chadwick Boseman) early years in the game in segregated America straight after the Second World War.

One-dimensional sportsmen sledging and shirking at the skin color of Robinson made me churn.

All the same, a well-intentioned feeling of fair play and equality prevails.

Signifiers of the Christian market are obvious. Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) is a bit gruff for a Methodist, but he corrects an adulterer and quotes the Bible.

Rickey goes against the prevailing racism and, like the word Methodist, is a man of method in his dealings with Robinson.

It took me a while to warm to Harrison Ford’s drawl because I’m used to seeing him as an action hero in a galaxy far away or as swashbuckling Indiana Jones.

He’s getting older and wiser.

What made me side with Rickey are his monologues of encouragement for Robinson. They are filled with integrity and fair play, even though the Rickey character doesn’t get past speechifying, but so what…

The center of goodness is stronger than the racism. Themes of overcoming adversity and rising above your circumstances resonant most, even above what happens on the baseball diamond.

However, sports fans and viewers caught up in the emotion of the drama will still enjoy Robinson’s tricks of the trade.

Robinson as portrayed in 42 is a mild-mannered man of few words who seems to exist for bat and ball, but there’s a depth of character brooding underneath. You see it in Bosewick’s stare and posture and in what others are saying about Robinson.

In sum:  nothing special but nothing to gripe about either.

[First published as is at Anglican Taonga online, 2013]


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