Hero is a word we hear often in sports, but heroism is not always about achievements on the field of play. “42” tells the story of two men—the great Jackie Robinson and legendary Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey—whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball. In 1946, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) put himself at the forefront of history when he signed Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to the team, breaking Major League Baseball’s infamous color line. But the deal also put both Robinson and Rickey in the firing line of the public, the press and even other players. Facing unabashed racism from every side, Robinson was forced to demonstrate tremendous courage and restraint by not reacting in kind, knowing that any incident could destroy his and Rickey’s hopes. Instead, Number 42 let his talent on the field do the talking—ultimately winning over fans and his teammates, silencing his critics, and paving the way for others to follow.
This remarkable movie deals realistically with the racial prejudice that Jackie Robinson endured when the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), gave him a contract to become the first African American minor league and then major league player in history.
The acting is superb in the film with Chadwick Boseman as Jackie, Nicole Beharie as his wife Rachel, and Ford as Rickey hit it out of the park. Ford is often funny as he makes observations such as telling one man that, by mistreating Robinson because he is a Negro, may not be a sufficient reply when God asks why he treated him that way. Ford’s crusty, Bible quoting businessman is a pleasure to watch. In one scene which reflects what really happened, the Phillies manager, Ben Chapman, heckles Robinson from in front of the dug-out, constantly giving him a barrage of the word “nigger”. In one dramatic scene which takes place earlier in the film Robinson asks Rickey why he chose him–was it because he had the courage to stand up and fight? “No,” replies Rickey. “I want you because you need the courage to take it and NOT fight back.” One of the interesting aspects of the movie is to see some of the players and fans begin to accept Jackie when they see what a terrific ballplayer and fine man he really is.
The movie finishes with Robinson’s rookie season and his winning the Rookie of the Year Award and helping the Dodgers win the pennant by hitting a big homerun to help clinch it. It also shows that his number, 42, is the only uniform number retired by all of Major League baseball. Unfortunately, four strong uses of “GD” prevent us from being able to award this film the Dove “Family-Approved” Seal. It is a shame that language spoils what otherwise is a fine movie.