Audiences are going to be treated to yet another new big screen biopic next week in the form of the new movie, 42. The film centers on baseball legend Jackie Robinson. 42 won’t be the first release that centers on the famed baseball star. The Jackie Robinson Story (1950) first told the player’s…well…story with Robinson himself telling his life story. So needless to say, more than likely this latest biopic will likely over embellish Robinson’s life story at more than one point. So before audiences go to see that movie, they would do well to check out Shout! Factory’s new DVD release, Jackie Robinson: My Story.
Jackie Robinson: My Story is just that. It isn’t a documentary so to speak. It is the story of Robinson’s life as told by actor Stephen Hill. While the presentation is obviously aimed largely at younger audiences, it is just as entertaining for adults, too. Hill plays the role of Robinson throughout the roughly ninety-five minute feature. It’s a bare bones, no nonsense presentation that is easily accessible and just as easy to understand. The presentation also includes footage of Robinson’s career both on the field and off. That inclusion will help to both inform and entertain viewers. The only real downside to the entire product is that it doesn’t offer the option of selecting individual chapters. If a viewer stops at one point in the feature, one can only hope that the DVD starts back at that point. Otherwise, said viewer will have to skip through the chapters and then fast forward or rewind to get to the point at which said individual stopped previously. Luckily, it is the feature’s only negative. Also included in this single disc story is a history lesson on both Robinson and his teammates and their role in societal changes from the ballpark. When weighing all of these factors in with the fact that a new baseball season has just started and new biopic on Robinson is set to debut next week, Jackie Robinson: My Story becomes that much more of an enjoyable piece both for kids and adults alike.
The first thing that viewers will notice about Jackie Robinson: My Story is its simplicity. It’s not some overblown drama or even overblown dramatic documentary. It’s a simple story about a great man. Presented here is actor Stephen Hill playing the role of Robinson in a simple setting. The setting is meant to be the locker room of the then Brooklyn Dodgers. Hanging behind Robinson…er…Hill are the uniforms of some of Robinson’s fellow legendary teammates. Hill tells the entire story of Robinson’s life entirely from that simple setting. Because of the set’s simplicity, there is nothing to distract viewers as they listen to Robinson’s incredible and at times painful life story. And while there are loads of names and dates thrown out there, that lack of distraction help viewers to remember some of them, including: Pee Wee Reese, Satchel Paige, and Roy Campanella among others.
The inclusion of Reese, Paige, and Campanella was important in that it was Reese that first took Robinson under his wing and helped make the push for Robinson to be able to play as a member of the Dodgers. Hill proceeds from here to explain that despite the popular belief, Satchel Paige, Roy Campanella and other African-American players didn’t just start flowing into the major league ranks after he was allowed to play. He explains how the process was actually more gradual and how African-American athletes still faced an uphill battle as the views of baseball fans still had yet to change at the time. But that they had managed to break in and become the stars that they did shows that views were beginning to change. Keeping this in mind, it serves as a reminder how pivotal this was not just in the history of baseball but in American history in general. It’s just one of so many moments that viewers will find interesting throughout the course of this original bio.
The simple set used for Jackie Robinson: My Story and the acting (so to speak) of Stephen Hill help make this new release from Shout! Factory enjoyable for audiences of all ages. There is one other factor that makes this a DVD worth checking out, whether in the classroom or the clubhouse. That factor is the inclusion of actual footage and pictures from Robinson’s life. Just as with the simple set, the inclusion of actual video footage and pictures from Robinson’s career and life serve as valuable visual aids. Whereas the simple set helps to draw attention to Hill and his take on Robinson, the video and pictures help to illustrate the story being told. They help to bring the entire thing full circle and that much more accessible for audiences.
There is an irony in the inclusion of one piece of footage in particular. That piece of footage is the Dodgers’ 1951 pennant matchup against the rival Giants. This piece is also used in 20th Century Fox’s recent movie, Parental Guidance. It’s ironic that this is included in both because of the timing of each one’s release. Both pieces were released within roughly a week of one another. Sure, the timing of the pair’s release to home viewers is purely coincidental. But it makes for an interesting discussion bridge.
As one can note by now, Jackie Robinson: My Story offers plenty of positives. For all the positives, there is just one negative. Surprisingly enough, it’s not too bad of a negative. It is the lack of a chapter selection option in the main menu. If a person were to remove the DVD from a DVD player, and put it back in later, this means that one would have to skip through chapters and then fast forward and/or rewind the show to where it was last stopped, rather than simply being able to jump to a given spot. While this is at least a slight detriment to the overall package, it isn’t too bad as the entire feature is interesting that a person won’t want to stop watching once getting into it. So to that extent, while it is a negative, it’s a minor negative at worst. It’s because of that this Jackie Robinson: My Story is an enjoyable piece both for sports fans and for those studying African-American history. It is available in stores and online and can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory store at
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