Screen Gems Movie Reviews with Kennie Bass. You'll find it First On Fox!
April 12, 2013 42
Studio: Warner Bros. Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including language.
Jackie Robinson was a pioneer. Clearly talented enough to play in the major leagues, he was at first denied that opportunity because of the color of his skin.
But a Brooklyn Dodgers executive named Branch Rickey decided to take a bold chance and give Robinson a shot. However, he needed Robinson to not only be great at the game, but to also carry himself in a way that his enemies could not criticize.
Luckily, the man who would wear number 42 on the back of his jersey was up to the challenge.
But it was far from smooth sailing. It wasn't just ballplayers and fans who wanted Robinson to fail because of his race. Some of Rickey's fellow baseball executives were not very fond of the new player on the Dodgers roster. They applied pressure to Rickey but he did not bend and that makes him as much a hero as the man he signed to play for Brooklyn.
It would be very difficult to make a movie based on the true story of Jackie Robinson and not be inspirational. The bigotry and the stupidity he had to overcome have been well documented. As Robinson, Chadwick Boseman shows the man's strength while also displaying his quiet dignity. Robinson was a proud person but he declined to fight back against his detractors in order to win the bigger war.
As good as he is, Harrison Ford's portrayal of Rickey is equally important. It's hard for an actor as iconic as Ford to play these types of roles where he has to be a real person. But as he's gotten older, Ford continues to challenge himself with his choices. I liked his Rickey and the reasons that drive him to make his monumental decision.
The supporting roles are all handled pretty well, including Lucas Black as Dodgers infielder Pee Wee Reese and Nicole Beharie as Jackie's wife Rachel. But it is John C. McGinley who truly shines as radio broadcaster Red Barber. He just sounds authentic, like he truly belongs in the booth.
"42" is a good film. The only thing keeping it from being a great one is that it paints in pretty broad strokes. It also tries a little too hard to be uplifting. With a story like Robinson's, all you really need to do is tell the truth.
No gimmicks like sweeping music cues are necessary.
On my rating scale, "42" earns a triple. Despite its somewhat heavy-handedness, the movie tells a story worth honoring and remembering.
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