Saturday, April 27, 2013
I saw 42. Being a baseball nerd, I loved the CGI stadiums like the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, Crosley Field, Forbes Field and Shibe Park. But enough about my weird stadium fetish, what was the movie like?
The movie is old fashioned, tells a story, doesn't get controversial with tales of ball players debauchery, and features actors who look like they could play baseball. Did I say non controversial? Ah yes, except for the racism and redneckery of most players, fans and baseball uppity ups.
Jackie Robinson's story needs to be told every 20 years. Hey folks, this shit happened only 66 years ago. Today's athletes, most of whom come across as clueless, selfish nitwits, could take a lesson from who Jackie Robinson was, and what he put up with to pave the way for them, most of whom couldn't and shouldn't have experienced.
The movie itself follows Jackie Robinson from his days with the Kansas City Monarchs ( a sidenote: PLEASE visit the Negro Leagues Museum in KC if you get the chance) to the day he was brought onboard to the Brooklyn Dodgers organization and through the historic 1947 baseball season. Chadwick Boseman, who I knew only from a short TV season of Persons Unknown, plays Robinson with a joy and an anger he cannot show. Harrison Ford is Branch Rickey personified, a low key religious man on a mission to make money and do what is right. Chris Meloni is Leo Durocher, the hard living manager tossed out of baseball for that hard living and because he was the iron fist who would keep Dodger rednecks like Dixie Walker in line. But my god, Alan Tudyk, who I only know from Suburgatory as a goofy dentist, has the role of Ben Chapman, the racist manager of the Phillies, who stands on the field throwing so many N bombs at Robinson even Quentin Tarantino must have gone "damn, that's a lot of N bombs". I can only imagine Tudyk's face reading that scene in some back room in front of the cast. Yep, that's the scene everyone talks about but there's another scene more powerfully uncomfortable to me.
In Cincinnati, when Robinson first shows up to play the Reds there is a father and a son sitting in the stands. A boy of about 6 or 7 or 8, excited to see Pee Wee Reese, a Kentucky native, play ball. Dad goes from caring father telling his son that he too hopes Pee Wee Reese shines, to bellowing racist screaming at Jackie Robinson to get off the field, you n****r. Dad continues to holler N bombs and little boy seems confused, until, he too, in a misguided attempt to please his father, hollers "get off the field, n****r!" Yep, a little kid screaming that hit me in the gut and once again shows racism, sexism, homophobia and hatred in general is taught, not genetic.
The movie itself isn't the greatest baseball movie ever made (that's The Natural), in fact it's sort of TV Movie of the Week-ish, but it tells an important story that needs telling ALL the time. I mean if they remake garbage like Red Dawn and Total Recall within 20 years, why not tell this story over and over? At least it's important.
Hey, if you go to this movie, and you should, and you're in your 50's like me, you will feel young again. The average age of the moviegoers in the packed theater we were in had to be 70. And they applauded at the end, loudly. So did I.