42

42 photo starrating-3stars.jpgThe life of Jackie Robinson gets the treatment you’d expect in Warner Brothers’ perfectly serviceable biography. The chronicle is a suitable document of the first African American to play Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era. Director Brian Helgeland (Payback, A Knight’s Tale) beatific depiction of Jackie Robinson is befitting of how Disney handles their sports pictures. It’s reverent, didactic and compelling. However given the magnitude of Robinson’s breakthrough, I was expecting a bit more grit. Perhaps in the hands of a more contentious director, the action would have seemed more controversial. There’s a brief moment of that in one particular scene involving actor Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman, the manager of the Phillies who vociferously opposed Robbins’s presence in MLB on the basis of his race. The scenes in which he taunts Robinson with racial epithets was even more disturbing than the many uses of the N-word in the movie Django Unchained. Perhaps that’s because this is a true story but also because of Robinson’s pacifist approach to the abuse that was forced on him. It’s is one of the few instances where you genuinely get a feel for the weight of his struggle.

42 is a polished biography. It’s got beautiful music, bright cinematography and is populated by some nice performances. Chadwick Boseman notably underplays Jackie Robinson in a way that doesn’t feel like he’s grasping for the Academy Award. He’s quite effective. As is Nicole Beharie who plays “the wife” but with an effervescence that made me want to see more of her in future films. Harrison Ford reminds us that he doesn’t always just phone it in. As Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers that signs Robinson to the team, he is truly engaging. 42 hits all the dramatic notes you’d except in a memoir such as this. It’s not particularly deep or insightful, but it is inspiring. Robinson becomes more a symbol through which other people unleash their racial hatred against. I would’ve appreciated a little more detail in the script about the man himself. More vignettes involving his personality as well as his athletic accomplishments in the world of baseball would‘ve been welcome. The lesson appears to be talent and money speak louder than hate. 42 is an admirable addition to baseball pictures that dutifully dramatize the subject in a way that is both pleasant and entertaining.

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19 Responses to “42”

  1. I really enjoyed this movie a lot. It is amazing to see how Jackie was able to focus on baseball, throughout all this hate. He was truly a strong person that kept it together. He is still an inspiration to all. Worth 4 stars.

  2. Wordschat Says:

    I like sports movies and this one in particular was a pleasant surprise. Harrison Ford was near unrecognizable as the Brooklyn Dodgers owner delivering an Oscar nomination worthy performance. I liked T.R. Knight as his Travel director and confidant. I read online how the real person continued with the club in various capacities and that Jackie Robinson was a close friend to him and his boys as they grew up.

    • It’s been a long time since Harrison Ford gave an actual performance worth talking about. Air Force One is the last one I can think of, so I guess 16 years. Wow. It’s nice to see he can still try. 🙂

  3. Nice review, Mark. I was afraid this would happen–a movie that just doesn’t go in depth. I’m not a baseball fan, so I’m not exactly adamant about learning of Robinson. But I will see this because Harrison Ford is in it.

  4. Well done Mark, haven’t had a chance to go out and see this yet and hoping I don’t miss it in the theaters.

  5. Great review Mark. “It’s not particularly deep or insightful, but it is inspiring.” Agreed.

    It’s not as detailed as I’d like to be about Robinson, but a solid biopic none the less. You’re right that it might have been grittier if handed to a different writer, although the scene with Tudyk is still incredibly powerful and tough to watch. Despite his racist, a-hole character, Tudyk was one of my favorite performances in the film. Boseman and Beharie are wonderful. I loved Ford the most though. It was the first time in my memory that I watched him actually playing a character instead of just being grumpy old Harrison Ford.

  6. Ah, glad to see you liked this a fair deal, Mark. Definitely my favourite of the year thus far. Really inspiring and rousing, even though it’s corny at times. I like the cast a lot. I enjoy Alan Tudyk, even though I’ve seen him in a few things (Wreck-It Ralph, Dodgeball). He’s probably been in a lot of other stuff I can’t think of, but I’ve enjoyed him in whatever he’s been in. I look forward to more of that guy, as well as Boseman. Nice review!

    • You’ll be seeing more of Chadwick Boseman. His next movie is Draft Day, another sports movie set in the NFL from director Ivan Reitman and starring Kevin Costner.

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