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‘42’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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A story bigger than baseball

To paraphrase the title of an earlier movie about the national pastime of baseball, hate strikes out in the historical drama “42” (Warner Bros.). This uplifting – if sometimes heavy-handed – film recounts the 1947 reintegration of professional baseball after decades of segregated play.

As the 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 Brooklyn roster of “Dem Bums.” In Robinson – whose Dodgers uniform, once he wore 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, according to the movie, 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.

The proceedings are buoyed by the feisty righteousness with which Ford, in splendid form, plays Rickey and by the inspiring example of Robinson’s unbreakable determination.

While some elements of the movie’s dialogue 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.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

‘The Call’

Audience:
A-III – adults

 

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For most of its running time, director Brad Anderson’s thriller “The Call” (TriStar) plays out as serviceable, if uninspired, entertainment for adults. But late developments make it first thoroughly implausible and then – through an appeal to viewers’ basest and most visceral instincts – morally unacceptable.

In a bid to answer the question, “What is life like on the other end of a 911 call?” Anderson takes us inside “The Hive,” the bustling room where Los Angeles police specialists field urgent requests for help. Among these professional soothers is veteran emergency-line operator Jordan (Halle Berry).

Rattled, early on in the proceedings, by a mistake that proves to have fatal consequences, Jordan retreats from the switchboard and takes on the safer role of instructor for 911 trainees. When the terrified call of a kidnapping victim named Casey (Abigail Breslin) flummoxes one of her less-experienced colleagues, however, Jordan swings back into action.

A latter-day Valley Girl, teen Casey was minding her own business at the local mall when she fell into the clutches of chloroform-wielding psychopath Michael (Michael Eklund). While Michael is old-fashioned enough not to realize that chloroform went out with spats, Casey is modern enough to be carrying her cell phone. So, after waking up in Michael’s trunk, she lets her fingers do the walking. Together, Casey and Jordan come up with some creative stratagems – but, temporarily at least, to no avail. As wily Michael manages to stay one step ahead of her, Jordan becomes increasingly invested in Casey’s fate. So much so, in fact, that the plot ends up on a collision course with credibility.

More importantly, a final twist finds this drama’s supposed good guys flouting both the law and the standards of civilized behavior. As they do, Richard D'Ovidio’s screenplay implicitly invites the audience not only to sympathize with their revenge-driven wrongdoing, but to revel in it.

The film contains an endorsement of vigilantism, much violence, some of it gory, at least one use of profanity, several sexual references and occasional rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

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B
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C
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D
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G
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H
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I
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R
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S
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