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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

42

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Lucas Black and Chadwick Boseman star in a scene from the movie "42."
To paraphrase the title of an earlier movie about the national pastime, hate strikes out in the historical drama "42" (Warner Bros.). Writer-director Brian Helgeland's uplifting -- if sometimes heavy-handed -- film recounts the 1947 reintegration of professional baseball after decades of segregated play.

As Helgeland's script shows us, this racial breakthrough -- which marked a significant milestone in the onward march of the civil rights movement -- was made possible by the collaborative efforts of Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) and Negro League star Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman).

In the aftermath of World War II, Rickey was determined to add a black player to the roster of "Dem Bums." In Robinson -- whose Dodgers uniform, once he eventually donned it, bore the number of the title -- Rickey found a sportsman with sufficient character to endure all the abuse that would have to be faced to make this change a reality.

Rickey's motivation was in part, of course, financial; in a diverse city like New York, integrated play would lead to an expanded fan base. But, if the narrative here is accurate, both his vision and Robinson's courage also can be attributed to their shared Christian faith.

This bond is first indicated in a humorous way when Rickey, reviewing Robinson's file, observes that everything is going to work out fine since "he's a Methodist, I'm a Methodist, God's a Methodist ... ."

Later, in describing to Robinson the forbearance he will need to demonstrate, Rickey gravely compares it to that of "our Savior." And, while remonstrating with a racist opponent, Rickey reminds him -- albeit somewhat jokingly -- that he will someday stand before God to be judged.

Catholicism is only specifically referred to in passing -- and in a retrospectively curious light. Rickey learns from the commissioner of baseball that his manager, the legendary Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni), is being suspended from the game for a year. The Catholic Youth Organization, it seems, objects to the flagrantly adulterous affair Durocher has been carrying on with his mistress. The organization's threat of a boycott, so the commissioner assures Rickey, is not to be ignored.

Robinson's marriage, by contrast, is shown to be both a model of success and a crucial source of support in his struggle. As he courts and marries his sweetheart Rachel (Nicole Beharie) -- and as they embark on parenthood together -- she proves a tower of strength to her husband, by turns egging him on and cooling him down.

Swelling music and other atmospherics occasionally convey the impression that Helgeland's picture is too convinced of its own importance. But the proceedings are buoyed by the feisty righteousness with which Ford, in a splendid turn, endows Rickey and by the inspiring example of Robinson's unbreakable determination.

While the elements listed below would normally exclude youthful viewers, the moral impact of Rickey and Robinson's history-altering partnership may make their story acceptable for older teens.

The film contains an adultery theme, racial slurs, fleeting humor implicitly referencing homosexuality, a few uses of profanity, at least one crude term and occasional crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Gregory VII: The 10th century and the first half of the 11th were dark days for the Church, partly because the papacy was the pawn of various Roman families. In 1049, things began to change when Pope Leo IX, a reformer, was elected. He brought a young monk named Hildebrand to Rome as his counselor and special representative on important missions. He was to become Gregory VII. 
<p>Three evils plagued the Church then: simony (the buying and selling of sacred offices and things), the unlawful marriage of the clergy and lay investiture (kings and nobles controlling the appointment of Church officials). To all of these Hildebrand directed his reformer’s attention, first as counselor to the popes and later (1073-1085) as pope himself. </p><p>Gregory’s papal letters stress the role of bishop of Rome as the vicar of Christ and the visible center of unity in the Church. He is well known for his long dispute with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV over who should control the selection of bishops and abbots. </p><p>Gregory fiercely resisted any attack on the liberty of the Church. For this he suffered and finally died in exile. He said, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile.” Thirty years later the Church finally won its struggle against lay investiture.</p> American Catholic Blog In Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was taken to God. Christ opened the path to us. If we entrust our life to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain to be in safe hands, in the hands of our Savior.

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