"Post World War II, life in the United States was returning to normal and baseball was positive proof that democracy was real," opens the narrator of 42, the new biopic of Jackie Robinson's career as the first black professional baseball player. Fittingly, the film was released on Friday, April 12th, on what would have been Robinson's 94th birthday.
Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers during that time, and a man who "didn't see black and white, only green dollars" as well as the opportunity that introducing the first professional black baseball player could bring.
Rickey handpicked Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman), an unknown minor league player for the Kansas City Monarchs, to play for the Dodgers, which set up the greatest struggles and triumphs of Robinson's life: balancing the opportunity to play in the big leagues with being one of the most visible targets of racism in America during the 1940s. Rickey's challenge to Robinson was not to fight back, because a black man really couldn't during that time, but to prove he belonged in the big leagues through talent alone.
The film highlights baseball, but also Robinson's relationships with others. Being a devoted husband and father was the light in his life, and suffering the cruelty of racism while retaining his dignity was the dark.
42 is PG-13 for intense subject matter as well as for continued use of the N-word and other coarse language.
If middle school and high school kids are talked to in advance about these issues, they will get a lot out of 42. It will be easy for them to see Robinson's life through the lens of bullying to the extreme. Robinson's story is a reminder that any fears we may have about making a stand are nothing compared to the grit he showed. Jackie Robinson's story gives us all the courage to be a leader too.
Robinson showed courage, physical and mental strength, humility, and what it really means to be a hero. He also proved that true talent has no color. For this, I recommend taking all kids 12 and over to see it.
Kid Focused Grades for 42
Compelling story line - A
Strong message - A
Leading character is a role model - A
Sexual content - B+ (the manager of the team is in bed with a woman, reference to cheating)
Violence - B (Robinson gets hit in the head with a baseball, very strong language)
Suited for the whole family - B (not for children under 10)
Overall Grade: B+ (for a general movie this film earns an A, but it is not a general kids' movie).
42, Rated PG
Running Time: 2 hours 8 minutes
is a stay-at-home mom of four young kids and the founder of Kid Focused
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