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On wings of faith: '42' scores big at the box office

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 7:35 a.m. MDT

This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in a scene from This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in a scene from "42." (D. Stevens, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Buoyed by an inspirational protagonist who apparently exercised his fair share of religious faith, “42” struck gold at the box office during its first weekend of wide release.

With $27.5 million in domestic ticket sales, the new film about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball not only bested the combined totals of second- and third–place finishers “Scary Movie 5” ($14.2 million) and “The Croods” ($13.1 million) — but “42” even eclipsed the expectations of its own backers.

“Warner Bros., who distributed ‘42,’ had released a very conservative $15 million estimate for their film,” Ryan Downey wrote Monday for MTV.com.

Last week the Deseret News’ coverage of “42” explored the preeminent emphasis the film places on values such as family ties (in the form of Robinson’s marriage to Rachel Robinson) and faith (vis-à-vis Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, himself a devout Methodist). In recent days, however, multiple media outlets have explored a parallel but distinct angle: Faith played a significant part in Robinson’s success as well — even if “42” does very little to suggest as much.

This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, left, and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in a scene from This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, left, and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in a scene from "42." (D. Stevens, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In a Friday column for USA Today the author Eric Metaxas wrote, “Robinson got down on his knees many nights during those first two years, asking God for the strength to continue resisting the temptation to fight back, or to say something he would regret. But the filmmakers of ‘42’ were evidently uncomfortable with all this and simply avoided it. To put it in baseball terms, they decided to pitch around it.”

Along those same lines, Chris Lamb’s recent op-ed for The Wall Street Journal stated, “What is often overlooked in accounts of Robinson’s life is that it is also a religious story. His faith in God, as he often attested, carried him through the torment and abuse of integrating the major leagues.”

Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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