Feel-good Jackie Robinson biopic is simplistic but positive.
Based on 23 reviews
Based on 73 reviews
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that 42 is a feel-good biopic about the two years in which Major League Baseball legend Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) broke the sport's color barrier. It's not a complete biography, just a snapshot of the 1946 and 1947 seasons. Expect many (many) instances of White characters using the "N" word and other racial slurs, including "boy," "monkey," and "coon"; other language includes "s--t" and "a--hole." A White man threatens Black men by saying that he and a group of other White men will cause "trouble" if they don't leave town. A calf injury is shown being stitched up by a doctor (no blood visible). Fistfights nearly break out; a man is hit in the head with a baseball (no lasting injury). Several kisses, a few more passionate than others. Couples shown in a bedroom or in bed together, talking and embracing (men shirtless, women in chemises). Adults infrequently drink and smoke.The movie spotlights an important moment in American and civil rights history.
A great portrayal by Boseman
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What's the Story?
In 42, in the aftermath of World War II, Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) decides the time is right to recruit the first Black baseball player into Major League Baseball. After going through the stats on various noteworthy Negro League players, Rickey targets Jack "Jackie" Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a 26-year-old player for the Kansas City Monarchs. Rickey offers Robinson a spot on the Dodgers' minor league team, the Montreal Royals, and then in 1947 officially gives him a place at bat with the Brooklyn Dodgers. With the support of his devoted wife, Rachel (Nicole Beharie), Robinson faces the racism of everyone from fellow players to umpires to opposing teams -- not to mention fans. But as he proves he's got what it takes to steal bases, hit homers, and score runs, teammates and fans have a change of heart.
Is It Any Good?
This isn't a perfect film, but it's entertaining and, by most accounts, historically accurate. But director Brian Helgeland definitely pulls a bit too hard at the heartstrings with slow-motion shots of little children and audiences watching Robinson play. As a result, 42 frequently teeters on the brink of being overly sentimental. Still, Boseman gives a wonderful performance as an amazing athlete, a loving husband/father, and a man who knows how to respond to racists and critics on the field, not with his fists.
Ford's performance is over the top and gets more screen time than strictly necessary for a biopic about a Black icon, but he believably portrays what drove Rickey's desire to integrate Major League Baseball: his business savvy (a Black player meant more Black fans) and his Christian principles (he's a Methodist who often compares Robinson's trials to those of Jesus). Ultimately, the biopic is about both men, perhaps to its detriment. Crowd-pleasing and uncomplicated, 42 isn't likely to win awards, but it's a great pick for families -- whether they love baseball or not.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about 42's themes and messages. Why are Jackie Robinson's accomplishments so significant? Can you think of other athletes/public figures who've faced similar challenges?
How have profesisonal sports in the United States changed since the 1940s? Are some of the issues raised in the film still present?
Talk about the difference between a biographical film that covers an entire life and those that concentrate on one time period of a historical figure's life. Which do you prefer? Why?
Does this film have a "White savior complex"? If so, how could the filmmakers have avoided this pitfall?
How does Jackie demonstrate courage and self-control? Why are those important character strengths?
- In theaters: April 12, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: July 16, 2013
- Cast: Alan Tudyk, Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford
- Director: Brian Helgeland
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Boy Role Models, History
- Character Strengths: Courage, Self-control
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements including language
- Last updated: January 29, 2023
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For kids who love sports
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