Filled with heartbreak and courage, the movie 42 is an emotional rollercoaster telling the story of the first ever African American baseball player, Jackie Robinson. Working his way up from the very bottom, the future Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman inspires children from all different races to have the courage to stand up for what they believe in.
The movie begins with Robinson excelling on the Kansas City Monarchs. At this time, white ball players competed within the major and minor leagues while Africans were dismissed to the Negro League. These two separate spheres never collided, until Jackie Robinson. After sportswriter Wendell Smith and Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey looked over Jackie’s stats, they recruit him for the professional ball club. He begins his pro career with the Montreal Royals, exceling on the field and eventually, getting moved up to the major leagues.
Although things seemed to be looking up for Robinson, the players on his team sign a petition refusing to play baseball with Jackie because of his race. He was not usually one to control his emotions, but Robinson had to learn to keep his head down and do what he knew best, win baseball games. When meeting with Branch before the season, he asks “You want a player that doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” Rickey responds, “No, I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.” Baseball fans were going to do anything to get Jackie to lose his temper and be seen as the choleric negro who doesn’t belong.
The movie 42 not only focuses on the bravery and nerve of Jackie to present himself as a scapegoat for racial prejudices, but also promotes the idea that change to personal beliefs requires sacrifice and courage. Change is impossible without sacrifice, which viewers see throughout this powerful documentary. The sacrifices citizens have to make is not always physical, but rather an adjustment to their world viewpoint. And in society, admitting that you were wrong or that maybe your opinion is not necessarily morally honorable can be even harder than the sacrifice of a material good.
42 further advocates that change will require personal courage, and sometimes that may mean living with a hardship or discomfort. A scene involving Brooklyn Dodgers Pee Wee Reese demonstrates the endurance Jackie’s friends had to go through to even be on the same team as an African baseball player. Pee Wee went to Rickey, stating he could not play at the next game because of a hostile letter he had received. Branch then proceeded to show Pee Wee Reese folders filled with hundreds of messages Jackie had received, some going so far as to threaten the lives of his son and wife. Pee Wee recognizes the magnitude of racism against Jackie and, at the Cincinatti game, puts his arm around Robinson in a show of support. As the southern crowd around them shouts in uproar, Pee Wee tells him, “Thank you Jackie. I got family up there from Louisville. I need them to know. I need them to know who I am.” Even though Reese comes from the deep south, he addresses the taunting and heckling of the prejudiced crowd with a remarkable gesture of friendship.
The story is great for family movie nights and is very powerful description of an influential underdog story.