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Customer Review

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Characters, not accuracy make this movie wonderful, April 29, 2005
This review is from: Soul of the Game (DVD)
Sticklers for accuracy will find this movie lacking as the paths of Jackie Robinson, Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige weren't as well intertwined as the movie suggests. The connection with Willie Mays is an interesting, meaningful plot connection . . . and extremely hard to believe.

Still, the acting and film/myth making is perfect for this most important story of "America growing up." The pace of the film, keyed by a jumpy-jazz soundtrack fits with exuberance of the post-war, "time to get moving" era. A cross-country automobile trip juxtaposes the new (a new class of prosperous African-Americans with their shiny automobile) with the old (not able to use a toilet in a small town).

The many changes of the era are used to tell the story -- the challenge of professional baseball to stay profitable, what to do about "negros" (who had just fought with distinction for world democracy) made something, somehow inevitable.

Josh Gibson was the great slugger (the "Negro Babe Ruth" he was called), although by 1946 was fading due to age and a brain tumor. Satchel Paige was (one of?) the greatest pitcher ever and was a great box office draw.

The story turns on Branch Rickey's selfish, sneaky, and noble plan to integrate baseball. The City was right (Brooklyn - the melting pot); the politics were right (Fiorella LaGuardia appealed to minorities and Happy Chandler, the new baseball commissioner, had stated his openness to integration); the ownership was right (Rickey had played baseball on an integrated team in college); and of course, Jackie Robinson was the right man.

Rickey is portrayed by the statesman-like Ed Hermann. The famous meeting where he explains to Jackie Robinson that he requires his pioneer to be strong enough to "not fight back" is portrayed with the subdued importance that's required. Robinson's background (an officer in the Army, a star halfback with UCLA) is portrayed convincingly by Blair Underwood.

Delroy Lindo is a bit too serious, and too devoted to his wife, not to mention possessing too broad a body, to make me believe that he's Satchel Paige. Still, he plays the part of the superstar pitcher with the big ego that's required.

I have no idea if Mykelti Williamson's portrayal of Josh Gibson is realistic, but it's delightful, poignant and ultimately tragic.

Rickwood Field (Birmingham) and League Stadium (built for "Field of their Own" in Indiana) add another touch of colorful, enjoyable non-realism to the story.

Enjoy the myth, but don't make any bar bets based on this film.
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Location: Princeton, NJ United States

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