Thursday, 11 April 2013 15:13

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Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures present a film based on a true story, PG-13, approximately 120 minute, sport, biography, drama, directed and written by Brian Helgeland with a theater release date of April 12, 2013.

During the 1940’s America was known for shows like Abbott and Costello, one of my favorite TV shows in the 60’s, World War and baseball.  A sport that in 1946 had sixteen major league teams with approximately four hundred players and none of them were black.  Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) a bible quoting, executive manager to the Brooklyn Dodgers had every intention to change history and the color of the American sport known as Major League Baseball.  He figured if for any reason by bringing in a Negro player to the white sport it would bring in Negro fans and in turn green money.  Harold Parrott (T.R. Knight) assistant to Mr. Rickey helped in the search against his better wishes but in the year of 1945 in Birmingham, Alabama they discovered a young attractive black ball player that played with the Kansas City Monarchs Baseball Club.  His name was Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), ex-military, with a bad temper towards anyone who shakes a segregated finger in his face.  In August of 1945 at the National League office Jackie was offered six hundred dollars a month and a thirty five dollar signing bonus to play for Montreal.  He signed and from that moment on was accompanied by Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) who was a sports writer assigned by Mr. Rickey to watch over and assist Jackie.
Jackie thought Mr. Rickey wanted a black player that doesn’t have the guts to fight back against racist people but in reality he wanted a player who’s got the guts “not” to fight back.  As long as Jackie received a uniform, a number on his back then he by all means had the guts.  Soon thereafter he married his girlfriend Rachel (Nicole Beharie) and his and her life were never the same nor was the sport of national baseball.  The films direction during this time in the story takes a big turn tackling topics of segregation, morals, ethics, religion and family.  Jackie becomes a hero not only to young black children but to the white majority of children that were raised with the right values that all men are created equal in the land of the free.  The writing and direction even goes as far to point out that within a racist family the children know no better than to reflect their surroundings even if they don’t emotionally agree with the words that the people they look up to are using against the black community.  I find it harsh to hear these words mentioned in a film this day and age so I can only imagine what it was like back in the forties.  I personally still ponder though in this present time and day why the black community still uses such profanity amongst themselves and in the entertainment world like film and music just to name a few outlets.  In order for a world to move forward should we all not bond together no matter what the color God gave us and learn that such language when used in a misguided manner is not acceptable by anyone no matter what color your skin is!
The story uses a lot of locations throughout the country, especially Florida with screen captions of month, day and years as the team moves around during Spring training and the actual baseball season.  Of course as anyone would know based on history Jackie was eventually signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers and the director and writers focus a lot of the relationship of the team to Jackie and that of them and their family and fans.  For some life could become difficult if they played ball on a team that hired a black player.  As for Mr. Rickey he had one goal in mind which was to have his team make it to the World Series.  His manager at the time for the Dodgers, Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni) made national news suspending his career which led Mr. Rickey to pursue an oldie but goodie Burt Shotton (Max Gail) who happened to take a much different approach to the team than Durocher.  Let’s just say that nice guys really don’t finish last!  Some of the most memorable moments in this story take place amongst the team and Jackie especially the shower scene with team player Ralph Branca (Hamish Linklater) and the hug on the field between Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) which seriously brought tears to my eyes.  If one thing can be said about the writing in this slightly too long of a story of Jackie Robinson it is that it really points out that in this world there are good and bad people and until we all consider ourselves on an equal playing field, all colors, this world will always be imperfect. 
On April 15, 1947 opening day at Ebbets Field number “42” made a difference in the game of baseball and for that matter the world.  As for the Phillies manager and the city of Philadelphia they were the one city and team that Jackie and much of the country had sympathy for since all of America was changing yet many of them in Philadelphia were still suffering within their own redneck world.  The world is not a simple place, it was not then and it is not now.  Sad that in any environment politics always seems to rear its ugly head even in the great American sport called baseball.  Sometimes in life people are told to be careful for what you ask for but in Jackie’s world he got exactly what he wanted and a place to call home.  In the end all men may not be judged here on earth for their actions and words but when the time comes one judge will stand before you and his name is God.  As for number “42” it is the only number ever retired in baseball and rightfully so since it should always belong to one man that helped change the sport forever, the great Mr. Jackie Robinson.
Somewhat like my review the film runs a bit long but the writing is extremely well done as is the direction but a shorter story with a little more ball playing could have helped add a bit more excitement to an otherwise lengthy but interesting tale of a history legend.  The film doesn’t have a huge cast of star actors except for the great Harrison Ford who at times seems to fade in and out of character but still able to make us aware of why he is so great.  Boseman at times seems a bit normal yet expressionless but overall does a fine job bringing Jackie back to life on the big screen.  When he loses his emotions due to the Phillies coach I would have rather of seen his facial emotions rather than just his physical actions.  He connects well with the part and the audience but I just felt that there were moments when he could have drawn the audience in towards his fight for equality on the ball field and in society.  Beharie is not only an attractive actress but a good balance to Boseman’s character.  Meloni was spot on, Linklater and the rest of the team players were perfect supports to the story of course but it was Black that stole the moment for me during the story in one particular scene.  Holland is utilized throughout the film but for some reason his character never really hits home plate for me.  I liked him but I think the writers could have given him a bit more dialogue especially between him and Mr. Rickey rather than just being used as a reference.  Even Knight tends to be a bit of a foul ball which is much better than a strike out but not quite a base hit.  Overall I loved the story albeit a bit long and at times uneventful other than learning a bit of baseball history which is not a bad thing when we get to learn a life lesson from it.  Written and enjoyed with two and half paws out of four by Jon Patch.

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Jon Patch

Graduated from Penn State University in 1983 and landed my first broadcasting job at the flagship station to SUN Radio Network in St. Petersburg, FL as a producer of talk radio. In 3 months advanced to a network producer, then on air as a national eventually local weather reporter for the Tampa Bay area. Held a position in management as a trainer to new hosts and producers and later Affiliate Relations Manager, eventually in 1990 started hosting, Talkin' Pets. Left SUN radio several years later and worked with USA Radio Networks for 1 year. I worked with Business TalkRadio & Lifestyle TalkRadio Networks for19 years under the title of V.P. Affiliate Relations and Programming, later worked with Genesis Communications until starting a new network ATRN.  Currently working with GAB Radio Network and with Josh Leng at Talk Media Network.  I am still hosting the largest and longest running pet radio and internet show in the country, Talkin' Pets, for the past 29 years... My one true passion in life is to help to educate the world through interviews with celebrities like Betty White, Tippi Hedren, Bob Barker, Linda Blair and others, authors, foundations and organizations like the ASPCA, LCA, HSUS, AHA, WSPA on the ways to make this world a better place for all animals and mankind whom all share this very fragile and mysterious planet called earth. This is the only home we have so we all need to learn how to share and maintain it so that life for us all continues and evolves forever... | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.