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Family Filmgoer: '42' exposes teens to racist past

“42” (PG-13): “42” presents the Jackie Robinson legend in a completely engaging, but Afterschool Special-esque, way that will draw teens and even some kids 10-to-12, under its spell. And for those younger ones, the film's rather simplistic depiction of what life was like for African-Americans in the segregated South and often equally racist North, in the mid-20th century, will be eye-opening.

Harrison Ford gives a broadly cranky-but-lovable turn as Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. In 1945, he decides to groom Negro League star Jackie Robinson of the Kansas City Monarchs for a spot with the Dodgers as the first African-American to break the color barrier in major league ball.

Writer/director Brian Helgeland's script makes sure we know that African-American soldiers had just returned from fighting fascism in World War II, only to face segregation at home. As Robinson, Chadwick Boseman is terrific, strongly athletic, yet subtle in how he embodies the mix of bravery and repressed anger that gets him through those first years with the Dodgers. With wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie) offering silent support from the stands, he faces vicious racist taunts from fans and from other players, who also shun him at first. One scene shows Phillies Manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) use the N-word over and over. The film also re-creates the famous moment on the field when Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) walked up to Robinson and put his arm around him to show solidarity and acceptance. The scenes of actual baseball, especially of Robinson stealing and sliding into bases, are very well shot, from dirt-in-the-lens ground level.

Even in this relatively sanitized version of history, the racial slurs and other insults hurled at Jackie Robinson are awful and cringe-inducing. The script also includes some mild profanity and a rather gratuitous, homophobic attempt at locker room humor, as well as mild, marital sexual innuendo. Some characters smoke and occasionally drink.

“Jurassic Park 3D” (PG-13): Unless they're very hearty souls, kids under 13 may want to skip this converted 3-D version of “Jurassic Park.” (It's also playing in 2-D at some theaters.) Even 20 years after its debut, and even though the computers in it look as ancient as the dinosaurs, Steven Spielberg's movie (based on the novel by Michael Crichton) is still a visual and visceral thrill. The 3-D intensifies and even sensationalizes it at times.

Dinosaur fossil expert Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and his girlfriend, biologist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), are recruited by millionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to give their seal of approval to his private island preserve, Jurassic Park.

To their shock, and that of another visiting scientist (Jeff Goldblum), they learn that Hammond's scientists have recovered dinosaur DNA from mosquitoes trapped in Jurassic-era amber and used it to clone the beasts. Of course, Hammond thinks it's all quite safe. Then an employee (Wayne Knight) steals DNA samples and tries to sneak off the island, disabling all security fences and gates. Humans quickly become prey. And Dr. Grant, who claims to hate children, risks his life to protect Hammond's grandkids (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello).

Even if kids 12 and under have already seen the film on video, this 3-D version, especially in IMAX, could be too much for them. It makes those dinosaurs – especially the carnivorous ones with their rows of teeth and enormous jaws, and their relentless pursuit of human prey – seem ready to pop off the screen. Characters use occasional barnyard epithets.