Friday, May 3, 2013

42 : A review...

                                         So, I finally got around to seeing the Jackie Robinson movie, and for the most part, I have positive things to say.  I basically got what I was expecting, but maybe was looking for a little more, as I pretty much knew the story backwards and forwards going in.  Anyone expecting a deep analysis of Robinson's childhood, and how he how he overcame the hardship of growing up without a father, only to become a multi sports star at UCLA and also serve his country in WWII, will be a little disappointed.  The movie starts with Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey ( a believable, if a little cartooney Harrison Ford ) looking for the first black to play in the majors..."Ray", this is not...

         However, it also doesn't waste time on superfluous details, and basically gets down to the business of baseball, showing Robinson ( Chad Boseman ) playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, only to be selected over such worthy contemporaries as Roy Campenella ( too nice ) and Satchel Paige ( too old ) to try out for the Dodgers AAA affiliate, the Montreal Royals.  Now, I don't want to give anything away, but Jackie makes the team, and then gets called up to Brooklyn a year later, wins the first rookie of the year award, leads Dodgers to pennant and so on...

             The acting is pretty top notch, with both Boseman and Harrison making a formidable pair ...but the real treat is watching Chris Merloni ( Det. Stabler of Law and order: SVU fame ) as Leo Durocher, the controversial Dodger manager who was suspended for the 1947 season by commissioner Happy Chandler because of his affair with married actress Loraine Day.  Durocher was such an interesting character, and Merloni was so convincing, there maybe needs to be a "Leo the lip" bio in the works.  Seriously, Leo played with Babe Ruth ( who nicknamed him the "All American out" ), was part of the "Gashouse gang" Cardinal team of 1934, and managed both the Dodgers and Giants in the '40s and 50s...(not to mention being the manager of one of the biggest choke teams of all time, the 1969 Cubs ).

            Another part of the film I enjoyed was the attention to detail on recreating Ebbets Field, Shibe Park, Crosley Field, et al  There will definitely be an Oscar for set design in this movie's future.  Also, they made the Brooklyn neighborhoods (one of which of which I live in ) look like they're right out of  the '40s...although to be fair, my brownstone hasn't really changed since then, according to my downstairs neighbor, who's lived in this apartment for over 50 years..

     And of course, there's the race issue.  There's a scene in which Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk ) taunts Jackie with more "N words" in a single at bat than N.W.A and Strom Thurmond combined.  Then there was the scene against the Reds, where it was a coming home of sorts for Kentucky native Pee Wee Reese.  A father and son are at the game, and once the father starts hurling racial slurs toward Robinson, the son follows suit...Of course, there's the famous scene in which Pee Wee puts his arm around Jackie and tells him everything is alright, and shows the hostile crowd that this is his friend.  In reality, I believe what Reese said to Jackie was simply, "Fuck em"!  This is a PG movie, however, so that didn't happen.

              Now the last bit of information led me to believe that this film, for the most part, was made for kids, and that's fine; MLB really needs to reach out to it's younger audience ( young black audience, especially ).  One of the funniest things that happened to me at the the theater, didn't occur during the movie, but afterwards, as a liberal, white Park Slope dad tried to explain to his 10 year old son why the son of the racist Reds fan joined his dad in the bigotry.  This conversation started while i was in the stall, and continued outside...the father backtracking while trying to make his point and not delude his son.  I guess that means the film was a success in that sense.  For me, I enjoyed it; maybe a little too Hollywoodish , but then again, everything to me is.  And if it's gonna be glitzy, it might as well be about baseball.  Now when's that Durocher film gonna come out...?  

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