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 an inspiring biopic about the two years in which baseball legend Jackie Robinson broke the sport's color barrier. It's not a complete biography -- just a snapshot of the 1946 and 1947 seasons. Expect many uses of the "N" word; but considering the institutional racism of the 1940s, the word is important to convey the times. Other racial slurs include "boy," "monkey," and "coon"; other language includes occasional use of words like "s--t" and "a--hole." There are a few near fistfights between the Dodgers and opposing players, and at one point a fellow Dodger pushes Robinson; a fight almost ensues. Despite the difficult language and serious themes, the movie offers important historical and ethical lessons for younger viewers and sports fans.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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 baseball 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 inspiring -- and, by most accounts, historically accurate. 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. Boseman gives a fine, subtle performance as an amazing athlete, a loving husband and father, and a man who knows how to restrain himself, responding to racists and critics on the field, not with his fists.
Ford's performance is over the top, but he believably portrays what drove Rickey's desire to integrate 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, not just Robinson, and the movie covers only those first two baseball seasons in Robinson's MLB career. Crowd pleasing and uncomplicated, 42 isn't likely to win Oscars, but it's a great pick for families with mature tweens and teens -- 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 sports 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?
Why are many sports movies so compelling? What are some good examples of inspiring sports movies?
- 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, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements including language
- Last updated: February 2, 2021
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