Dave’s Movie Review: 42

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Good Believable Acting
Nice Bio Pic
Powerful/Entertaining Story

The Bad:

Pacing was a little slow at times, but nothing major to complain about.

Cast & Crew:

Director: Brian Helgeland
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including language

I’m going to preface this review with a disclaimer: If you’ve read my bio (and who wouldn’t want to spend time reading a bio about a random movie nerd on the internet? It’s fun for the whole family!…maybe…I honestly can’t remember if it’s appropriate for kids. The internet has ruined my memory), you’ll remember me professing my borderline unhealthy love for movies. My love for movies is very closely rivaled by my love of baseball. Summer Catch aside, there are very few baseball movies I don’t enjoy. I’ve literally lost count of how many times I’ve watched all 1,380 minutes (that’s 23 hours) of the Ken Burns Baseball documentary (…ugggh… I’ve wasted my life). I love baseball and I love baseball history…a lot. So it goes without saying that I was a tad bit excited to see “42.”

42, of course, is the real life story of Jackie Robinson and his trials during his (and Branch Rickey’s) attempt to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The movie begins in the spring of 1946 with Branch Rickey (the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers) devising a plan to be the first team to allow an African American player in the Major Leagues. Rickey carefully chooses Robinson who then spends the entire 1946 season in the minor leagues and finally (after plenty of nasty racism along the way) gets the call up to the big leagues for the 1947 season. The remainder of the movie chronicles Robinson’s struggle to overcome hatred, bigotry, ignorance, and his urges to fight back as the Dodgers (in no small part thanks to Robinson) go on to win the 1947 National League Championship.

Director Brian Helgeland has previously directed Payback, A Knight’s Tale and The Order… so this is easily the best movie he’s ever helmed. On the positive side he also adeptly wrote this movie as well as some pretty great movies like L.A. ConfidentialThe Postman (Yeah. I said it), Mystic River and Man on Fire. Helegeland does a great job creating a believable period piece that looks and sounds like life in the 1940’s. For the most part the film is nothing flashy or groundbreaking. It’s a solid, well made (if not a little slow), no frills period piece/bio pic.

I’ve got to imagine there is a certain amount of pressure that comes along with acting in a movie featuring real, larger than life characters. If the actors in this film felt that pressure (which I’m sure they did) they did not show it in their performances. I was pretty worried going into this movie that some of the actors wouldn’t be able to do the characters justice. I was wrong. Harrison Ford played a wonderful and authentic Branch Rickey. It would have been real easy for his performance to scream “I’m Indiana Jones doing a Branch Rickey impression!”, and, for me at least, it didn’t. I often times found myself forgetting that it was Harrison Ford, which was no small feat considering he wore an Indiana-Jones-esque fedora during much of the film. Relatively unknown Chadwick Boseman was flawless and dead-on as Jackie Robinson. From his batting stance, to his baserunning style, to his toothy, room-brightening grin, he personified the excitement and courage that was Jackie Robinson.

I’m a 30 year old, middle class, white guy. No matter how many movies I watch, or books I read, I will never truly understand the actual impact vicious racism and discrimination can have upon one’s life. While I’m sure this movie can’t come close to really telling the whole story of the atrocities of racial hatred, I found it’s portrayal of the brutal discrimination that Robinson faced (from fans and fellow players alike) during the early days of his career to be very powerful. It’s made even more powerful knowing that this is not some bright and shiny Disney portrayal of a mythical hero. The events and circumstances (to my knowledge) portrayed in this film are real. These things really happened. To a real human being. This movie didn’t mark the first time that I had heard Robinson’s actions referred to as “brave.” This movie is, however, the first time I’ve really been able to grasp the REAL bravery that Robinson had to exhibit in order to bring the nation and the world closer to accepting African-Americans in everyday life. The self-restraint and determination this man showed is astounding. Seeing it up on the big screen adds something that reading about him in books and seeing black and white pictures cannot. When people call him a “Hero”, it’s no joke.

Much of this film is a very well made 1940’s period piece complete with nostalgic filming style and soaring and inspirational score, but let’s be clear, this movie does deal with some very ugly subject matter. There are racial slurs…lots of them…said in very angry and demeaning ways…they don’t hold back at points. The scenes including a heckling Philadelphia Phillies Manager Ben Chapman (played by Alan Tudyk…That’s right, Steve The Pirate from Dodgeball is a racist jerk.) are particularly brutal…and based on actual events. This is a great, educational movie that you can potentially watch with your older kids but make sure you are prepared to have a serious discussion about equality after the film.

I give this movie an “A”. If you care about civil rights history or like baseball even a little bit go see this movie today. I thought it was great and very powerful at times. It tells a great story about a great man who truly did help change the world.

Dave Bernard (5 Posts)

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