Chadwick Boseman stars as Robinson, (if you don’t already know) the first African-American to play baseball in the Major Leagues. Robinson lived a historical career. He was an excellent base runner, had great skills on defense, playing multiple positions, and had a career .311 batting average. He was selected to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers by owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford). The film focuses centrally on the years 1946-1948, the time when Robinson would enter the minor leagues, get married to his loving wife Rachel Robinson (Nicole Beharie), and change baseball forever.
We first meet Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), a news reporter who ushers Jackie from his minor league time to the majors. He too is a black man trying to survive segregation, forced to sit in the stands not the press box. We also meet Dodgers owner, Branch Rickey. Sounding like a choking pirate, it is safe to say that Harrison Ford is doing some over-acting. I enjoyed the effort from Ford, but his vocal change is at some points down right laughable. Rickey was an innovator, someone who was not afraid of what others would say. He cared more about having a winning baseball team. The relationship between Rickey and Robinson has some heart-felt moments but each “inspiring” speech seems hollow when the film sets us up for another speech 5 minutes later.
In the beginning, there are some scenes of the athletic skills of Robinson. He steals home during one of his early Negro League games, he can field first base in another, and he hits a couple of home runs. Outside of this, the film centrally focuses on the moments of racism that Robinson would endure. Fans screaming at him during games, Robinson needing to use different bathrooms, and his teammates signing petitions to not play with him. Robinson was the bravest person of his era. For all of these reasons, high school kids of today should see this movie. Number 42 certainly is an inspiration to us all.
One of the toughest scenes of the film is when Phillies Manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) took his time during the game between his team and the Dodgers, to step outside of the dugout and yell every racist comment he knew at Robinson during his at bats. Prior to seeing the film, I never knew this moment happened to Robinson. It was outrageous and rude. It almost seemed unreal. At every at bat he kept calling him every name. It was hard to watch. The fact that Robinson was able to not react was quite impressive. He certainly was a stronger person than I am.
The largest problem with the film is that Writer/Director Brian Helgeland does an OK job of showing us the things that Robinson experienced, but we never get to really know the MAN Jackie Robinson. Who was he? What did he talk about outside of baseball? Sure, we see him smash a baseball bat in anger, but Boseman is a valuable actor that is treated like a second-rate character.
Relationships with teammates Pee-Wee Reese (Lucas Black) and Ralph Branca (Hamish Linklater) are after thoughts in the end. The energy performances from Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher and John C. McGinley as announcer Red Barber are small and too scarce.
42 is a movie with a great story that is told with a poor script. Ford and Boseman give valiant efforts but need support. The movie 61* is a great baseball film that I loved and The Express has the same look and flare. But, 42 does not come close to the greatness of those sports films. It is too bad. Jackie Robinson was an amazing person that deserved better. Like a fly ball knocked down from the wind, this home run attempt is caught at the warning track.
Written by Leo Brady
STARRING: CHADWICK BOSEMAN; HARRISON FORD; NICOLE BEHARIE; CHRISTOPHER MELONI
DIRECTED BY: BRIAN HELGELAN
A Movie Guy.com's RATING: 2 Stars (Out of 4)
A complete disappointment. That is how I felt leaving the theater. The greatness of Jackie Robinson will never fade, but his movie is lacking of all the greatness that Jackie had. It is an inspiring story that was meant for the big screen, the only problem is that 42 is repetitive in its narrative and lacks in any relationships among main characters. I sat through the two-hour and 8 minute film and still wondered, who was Jackie Robinson? It is an unfortunate failure.