Hollywood genre films are some of the most formulaic products you can consume. Romantic comedies, action and horror flicks – those movies seem so beholden to the prescribed formula that you’d think they were under FDA supervision.
Sports flicks – especially the ones based on true stories – are the most formulaic of them all. The story arcs are the same, the character conflicts are the same…these films present the same message/themes. They never change.
A few days ago, Warner Bros. Pictures released the trailer for “42,” the Jackie Robinson biopic. The trailer makes it clear that it will hit all the cliché sports-film notes: early trauma, epiphanies, tribulation, triumph, love…yada, yada, yada.
There was, however, something unique – about the trailer, at least. The music. The “Remember the Titans” trailer features Aretha Franklin’s “Think.” Parts of the “Glory Road” trailer are backed by Otis Redding’s “Respect.” The “42” trailer is set to Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard” – the joint from a few years back with the Santigold hook.
There are few human beings as closely associated with their hometown as Jay-Z is with Brooklyn. And his perceived cachet is clear with this trailer. Robinson broke the color barrier as a first baseman with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The Brooklyn Dodgers. So, instead of, say, some Duke Ellington, they went with Jay-Z and an exceedingly modern sounding song to soundtrack a trailer depicting events of segregation-era America.
It’s a provocative choice, in a lot of ways, pandering in others. Just don’t get fooled into thinking that that the movie will be some brave, new take on the sports film genre. It’ll stick to the formula. It’s not like Jackie and future wife Rachel will have their meet-cute scene in Los Angeles and “Excuse Me Miss” will be playing in the background.