I still have the photograph of my brother and me shaking hands with Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson. As I look at it, my mind goes back to a balmy evening in April of 1954. I was 15 years old and my father proudly brought his two sons to the first baseball game of our lives.
42 is a movie about how personal courage can change the world. Courage comes in many forms. Last week we were reminded of the incredible courage of common citizens and first responders in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attacks.
More than two decades before the civil rights legislation of the 60s and more than ten years before the Supreme Court's 1954 decision -- a quiet drama was beginning in Brooklyn, a drama that one observer later would call "perhaps the most visible single desegregation action ever taken."
In the film about Jackie Robinson's first year in the majors, Chapman shows up spitting one racial epithet after another from in front of the Phillies' dugout at Ebbets Field, a monologue of bitter bigotry that left Tudyk feeling slightly hungover after each day of filming.
I saw 42, and left the theater with my head high, chest swollen, back straight and eyes tearful with emotion. Sports can make us feel proud, especially, when our dignity and worth have been historically discounted in America.
I spoke with Chadwick Boseman a few weeks before the film's opening and discussed carrying the legacy of such a beloved sportsman, seeking the approval of both his family and living widow Rachel, and all he learned working opposite leading man Harrison Ford.
I have not yet seen "42" but I'm giving it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. If I had ten thumbs I would give it ten thumbs-up, because I want everyone to see the movie -- especially young people, a shocking number of whom don't know who Jackie Robinson was.
You know what an audience-friendly film is. It tells a story that engages you about characters you can like and root for. Yet those films -- movies that seek to tell a story that uplifts or inspires -- often get short shrift from critics for that reason alone.
In telling Robinson's story, Helgeland doesn't dwell on the endless barrage of racist bile that Robinson (and his wife) endured, but he doesn't shy from it either. As a result, Robinson's achievement takes on more meaning and more power.