warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

'42' Knocks It Out Of The Park

Christianna Wiggins |
April 13, 2013 | 3:11 a.m. PDT


"42" stars Chadwick Boseman as ground-breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson (Warner Bros.)
"42" stars Chadwick Boseman as ground-breaking baseball player Jackie Robinson (Warner Bros.)
Charming yet powerful, "42" (in theaters now) is a moving addition to the important legacy of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. And audiences agree: with a $27.3 million debut, the film boasts the highest opening of all time for a baseball movie.

"42" follows the early career of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, better known as Jackie Robinson or number 42 - the number on his Brooklyn Dodgers jersey.

Robinson, played by Chadwick Boseman, made waves in 1947 when he became the first African American to play in major league baseball. While everyone knows the gist of the story, not many understand the depth of Robinson's plight, but "42" made it very clear.

The movie begins with a narrative by Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), a sportswriter who later became the first African American reporter to join the Baseball Writers Association of America. Smith wrote about the Negro Baseball League for many years and thus recognized Jackie Robinson's talent before he even entered MLB. The reporter is credited with recommending Robinson to Dodgers general manager, Branch Rickey when Rickey was in search of an African American ball player to join his team. 

Throughout the movie, Wendell Smith acts as Robinson's chauffeur and personal chronicler. His kind heart and attempts at breaking through his own racial barriers in the journalism world make him a very likable character in the eyes of both Robinson and the audience. 

Viewers are also introduced to the lovable, cigar-weilding GM, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford). Rickey was the first general manager to actively seek out an African-American player for his team. Rickey is harshly ridiculed for this decision in the movie, as it came during a time of heightened segregation within America. However, Rickey never backs down from his decision and he consequently leaves a legacy of innovation behind in baseball. 

The other pivotal character, besides Robinson himself, is his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie). Like any powerful and memorable wife, Rachel Robinson is kind but courageous. Throughout the movie, Rachel's strength is clearly tested when she is faced with explicit racism for the first time in her life whilst traveling with her husband for baseball season. In one significant scene, Rachel enters a "Whites Only" ladies restroom at an airport because she has never seen one in the past. As a result of this action, she and Jackie are kicked off of their flight. 

Of course, the aforementioned scene is only one of many portrayals of racism in the movie. However, "42" does a good job of exposing racism in an effective, but limitedly harsh manner. There were a few intense scenes that left the audience cringing at the ignorance proudly displayed by unknown individuals as well as important figures in baseball (players, managers), but overall, one was able to digest Robinson's story without too much gore.

The movie's lack of violence made room for a more endearing backdrop that allowed viewers to learn more about Jackie Robinson's personal life in a relatable manner. By incorporating his relationships with his wife, Smith, Rickey and even his teammates, the movie showed that it had heart, which is needed when tackling such an uncomfortable but important topic. 

And let's not forget, being a true story, the movie was unconsciously informative. From a quick mention of Robinson's stats, to displaying the dates when the Dodgers were refused hotels, there are many instances where the viewers are learning statistical details about Jackie's career unbeknownst to themselves. 

Interestingly enough, while the movie keys people into Jackie's personal success and legacy, there has been a lot of conversation across social media and news inquiring whether or not African Americans are indulging in Jackie's achievements.  In light of the movie release, AfroAmerican Newspaper recently reported that on opening day of this year, there were only 8.5% black baseball payers, which is surprisingly low in comparison to other sports. Nevertheless, Robinson's career and path are commendable.

Luckily for us, his "path" is also fun to learn about. The movie's versatile setting makes it a great flick for baseball lovers and non-enthusiast alike. You will not be bored with baseball facts, or find yourself unwillingly caught in a love story; "42" has an attractive mixture of romance, drama and baseball that will undoubtedly be pleasing to a range of audiences.

Reach Contributor Christianna Wiggins here



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.