Robinson tells Rickey he’s up to the challenge of integrating baseball, but the player’s reputation as hot-tempered concerns the GM. "I want a player who will have the guts not to fight back," Rickey tells Robinson, reminding him that his "enemy will be out in force."

Those enemies include Robinson’s own teammates, several of whom sign a petition saying they won’t take the field with a Negro. That plan is quashed by the team’s manager, Leo Durocher (Christopher Melonie), who, like Rickey, knows integration of the sport could be the key to the league’s long-term financial success.

42 never shies away from less-than-admirable motives for major league integration (Rickey notes that the only color that matters in baseball is green), but it also gives Rickey's cause a moral urgency. Rickey believes God is on his side in the matter, at one point berating an opposing manager for threatening to boycott a game if Robinson takes the field. Rickey reminds the other man that he’ll one day have to stand before God and explain his actions.

Rickey’s moral concerns also extend to sexual ethics. He reminds Durocher, who’s involved in an extra-marital affair, of the Bible’s teaching on adultery, and the film shows how such moral failings can catch up with us in publicly embarrassing ways.

By contrast, Robinson is depicted as virtuous, if tending toward anger at his constant mistreatment. He precedes a proposal to his wife (Nicole Behari) by reminding her they’ve "always done the right thing," and he promises his infant son he’ll never abandon him the way Robinson’s father walked out on his family.

42 is similar to The Blind Side, a well performed story about a black athlete who benefits from the intercession of a sympathetic white protagonist. Like The Blind Side, faith is integral to the story, and is presented unapologetically. And like The Blind Side, the film is rated PG-13 with some content that isn’t appropriate for all ages. That’s a shame, because the film’s lessons should appeal to viewers too young for some of the film’s more mature moments.

Parents should exercise discretion in deciding which, if any, of their kids see 42, but they can take some confidence in knowing that the film’s lessons in decency, fairness and biblical authority come through loud and clear. Like The Blind Side, 42 may be dismissed by many critics, but like that earlier film, it should find a receptive public. And if 42, like The Blind Side, ends up a year-end awards contender, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise either.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: Racist taunts and epithets throughout; “son of a b--ch”; “screw you”; “Judas priest!” “I’ll smash his go-d-mn teeth in”; “piece of s-it”; “what in satan’s fire does he want?”; “ba-tard”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Drinking; a man asks, “You been drinking?” and a character responds, “I wish”
  • Sex/Nudity: Leo is shown in bed, under covers, with a woman who drapes herself around him; Leo is later shown in bed, in his underwear; kissing; men in locker room are shirtless or wrapped in towels; Robinson stands shirtless by a hotel window, and Rachel approaches him and kisses him; Robinson shown in his boxer shorts, and from the waist up in a locker-room shower
  • Violence/Crime: Robinson is said to have been court-martialed, but Rickey believes the charge was unjust; reckless driving; a violent collision at home plate; a pitch to the head; and on-field melee; letters to managers and players include death threats
  • Religion/Morals/MarriageRickey proclaims his Methodism, and is drawn to Robinson, who’s also a Methodist; Rickey says God is a Methodist; Rickey asks Robinson if he has “the guts” to turn the other cheek; Rickey encourages Robinson to put “the fear of God” into opposing players; Robinson marries Rachel, and they have a child; Robinson says his father left him when he was an infant, but he’ll always be there for his child; Robinson says, “God built me to last,” and Rickey repeats that declaration about Robinson later; Rickey says the Bible tells us eight times to love our neighbors as ourselves; Rickey and Leo both claim that money is the bottom line for why they’re bringing Robinson to the team; a Catholic group threatens to boycott the Dodgers over Leo’s moral failings; Rickey tells Robinson he’s “the one living the sermon, in the wilderness”; Rickey challenges a racist manager to consider how he’ll explain himself on the day he faces God and accounts for his actions

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

Publication date: April 12, 2013