The life story of Jackie Robinson and his history-making signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers under the guidance of team executive Branch Rickey. (IMDB)
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Director: Brian Helgeland
Stars: Chadwick Boseman, T.R. Knight, Harrison Ford
Run time/Rating: 120 Minutes/ PG-13
Popcorn Score: Medium Popcorn with Butter
It is incredibly timely that the movie “42” comes out on April 12th, just a couple of weeks after starting the 2013 Major League Baseball season and only 3 days before the annually recognized Jackie Robinson day across MLB where every player on every team wears his number 42 to commemorate the day when Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. But it is perhaps even timelier because awareness of racism is as high as it has ever, or has always been in America. With the very first African American President ever in the office, and every word of everyone being reported on, analyzed, scrutinized, re-tweeted and often misinterpreted, it is hard to turn on the news and not become aware of the abundance of racism that is perceived, but also existing to this day in our country.
“42” has all of the necessary racial undertones that the story requires, but allows us to view them in the regards of baseball and for the most part makes an entertaining movie in the process.
I was able to see a pre-screening of “42”and I considered myself very lucky because as a big baseball fan and even a bigger fan of movies I couldn’t make up my mind as to what this movie was going to be. The film is written and directed by Academy Award winner Brian Helgeland (LA Confidential, Mystic River) who has proven himself more of a writer than director. It has a questionable cast staring unknown Chadwick Boseman as the lead and Harrison Ford as the GM of the team. Ford, who once would have been a check mark in the favorable column for a movie recently has become a total toss up.
The story begins as Robinson is playing baseball in the southern Negro leagues while Ford’s character Branch Rickey sits in his front office desk of the Brooklyn Dodgers and conceives the plan to bring black ballplayers to baseball. Him and his men find the stats on Jackie Robinson in a stack of 1000’s and choose him as the player to give a tryout in their farm system. This quick scene made me feel that it could have been Robinson, or 100’s of other players at the time that could have been chosen and succeeded, and that very well may be the case. Robinson is brought to the minor league tryouts and proves his worth on the field just as quickly as he is brought under scrutiny.
Primarily focusing on baseball and the racism that Robinson endured during his first years in baseball, screen writer Helgeland also very briefly makes a point to show that Robinson got married and had a child during these years. The story is written and performed just good enough with humor and suspense that you cannot help but be engaged by the end of the story, however that being said, it doesn’t build up to much of a climax. The slow moving story seemed more like an after school special or an educational High School History Class film than it did a well made Hollywood biopic. The constant use of inspirational underscore made the entire movie flat and cheesy. I easily noticed the few scenes where the underscore was absent and appreciated them more than any other in the movie.
If you go into “42” with light expectations and as a fan of baseball or sports biopics this story is entertaining enough, but it could have been told better. It should have gone through a few more rewrites, had a director with a more realistic vision to it, and although I did enjoy Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, if those things would have happened they probably could have attached a bigger name to it which would have given it more credibility. In comparison to other biopics in the last 10 years; Moneyball, The Fighter, Ray, Walk the Line, Lincoln, Milk, “42” is easily a cut below the rest.
Medium Popcorn with Butter.