42

42

“42” tells the true story of Jackie Robinson, the Hall of Fame baseball player who was the first African-American to integrate the sport in 1947. For this, he received animosity from other players, incredibly nasty heckling from the fans, and an enormous volume of hate mail and death threats. Through it all, he persevered… not only to change the game, but to become great at it.

It’s a powerful story, inherently, and “42” tells it in a straightforward, conventional, albeit entertaining way.

In 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) makes a bold decision. He’s going to eschew baseball’s unwritten segregation policies and field black players. In spite of the protestations of his advisors, Rickey begins to scout the Negro Leagues. The player he selects is Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). Due to Robinson’s ball playing skills, his military service, and age, Rickey feels Robinson would be the perfect candidate for the challenge.

When they meet, Rickey tries to impress upon Robinson that the challenge of integration can only be won if Robinson suffers the slings and arrows of the racist taunts he’s sure to receive with nobility and restraint. Should he fight back, Rickey is convinced the press would focus on his actions only, and not the instigation, painting Robinson as not having the temperament for the Major Leagues. The only way to win is to keep his dignity in the face of the racism and excel at baseball.

Robinson agrees.

After a year in the minors, Robinson is called up to make his Major League debut. As expected, he’s met with hostility. Beginning with a chilly reception from several members of his own team, Robinson faces bad calls from prejudiced umps, pitchers who throw at his head, fans who hurl racial epithets from the stands, and even an opposing manager who openly curses him from the visiting dugout (Alan Tudyk). But over the course of the film, Robinson wins over his teammates, the press and the fans with his both his great play and his incredible determination.

The story of Jackie Robinson is a powerful one, and any treatment of it will be the beneficiary of his bravery, toughness and talent. “42” showcases his rookie year without much embellishment or flashy style. It’s a traditionally directed, unremarkably scored film that puts the story in front of you and lets the events speak for themselves. Aside from a few, sparse, humor beats, the script doesn’t have much of a life of its own. In the less than 24 hours since I’ve viewed it, I haven’t yet decided if I should praise the film for its restraint or criticize it for not aiming higher, given the powerful nature of the material.

Regardless of how safe the film plays its hand, the story itself is still an important, incredible one, and “42” does one thing very well. It brings the two featured roles to life with two excellent performances from Boseman and Ford as Robinson and Rickey respectively. Boseman does a great job of portraying the silent suffering Robinson had to endure. He’s believably athletic, and very charismatic. Ford is cantankerous and gruff, delivering righteous, bellowing moralizations to opponents and soft-spoken encouragement to Robinson. This is easily his best role in several years. The two play off each other extremely well, portraying a team effort in an extraordinarily challenging test of courage.

It’s a solid movie, and one that I think most viewers will approve of. I know that the audience I saw it with was applauding both during the film and afterwards. It didn’t do anything overly remarkable, in my opinion, but with the power of the given subject and two strong performances from Boseman and Ford, it didn’t have to.

A-

Daniel Fogarty

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50 thoughts on “42

  1. I heard someone say yesterday that this film is the reason that they should never resurrect Han Solo… but you thought Ford’s performance was strong? I’m going to give this one a go.

  2. Nice review Fogs. Not sure if or when this is seeing the light of day over here but I’ll keep an eye out for it. Is applauding a normal thing in the States? I’ve only ever experienced it here once and that was for Les Mis.

    • Yeah, what’s with applauses in the cinema? I’ve only ever experienced it once as well. Unbelieveably, that was Titanic. While I was sitting down front knotting myself in laughter at the absurdity and steaming turd I had just witnessed, people were clapping away.

      • Well, a huge contingent of people love that movie, but that’s another thing.

        Audiences dont clap here often, and when they do its usually as the credits roll. The last time I remember before this was for Marvel’s The Avengers. So it was surprising, certainly. What was more surprising though was that they were clapping during the movie. So… this might be a real crowd pleaser, I’m interested to see how it fares this weekend.

  3. Although baseball’s not that big over here Fogs, I’ve always at least heard of several of the players and their reputations or history but I’ve never heard of this. It actually sounds quite good. I could see myself enjoying this. I normally do with a baseball flick. Nice write-up man.

    • Thanks Mark. You know, if you’re unfamiliar with the story, than this would probably be a good movie to check out. It’s amazing what Robinson had to go through. I think you may enjoy it more if youre unfamiliar with the story… give it a chance.

  4. I defintely agree with you on this one on how the script was playing it safe, but a great movie overall. I was very excited when I saw the trailers for this movie and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Good review :)

    • Thanks Emily. It didnt take a lot of chances, and isn’t exactly Oscar material, but it was enjoyable. I could tell the audience was really enthusiastic too.

      I hemmed and hawed over whether to B+ it or A- it, but in the end, I went with the high grade ;)

      • As I mentioned on Twitter, this is my new favorite film of the year. I think Boseman and Ford hit it out of the park. So many wonderful little and big portrayals in the film. I think Brian Helgeland achieved a fine atmosphere, as well. BTW, the Dodgers celebrated Jackie Robinson day all weekend, and cap it with Rachel Robinson and family at tonight’s game.

      • Nice to hear, Jackie Robinson deserves all the celebration he gets. ;) I liked the movie, certainly, but I’m not certain of its top ten chances, for me personally. I think most of the power comes from the actual story, and not so much anything the film itself brought to the table. Still very enjoyable. :D

  5. My husband took Sammie to see this last night. As you know she lives and breathes baseball. She loves stories about all the “old timers.” Even made a movie about Jackie Robinson a few years back for a school project. (I should try to find that.) They both really liked it. I got the impression it wasn’t a “flashy movie”…just a great straight forward story. They both said they have a better understanding and more respect for baseball’s “Jackie Robinson Day” when everyone wears number 42.

    • Yup. They just told the story of how he got into Baseball and his first year in a kind of A to Z no nonsense fashion. The script wasn’t anything spectacular or anything, but they didnt fumble the ball either. I enjoyed it, I’m glad to hear they did too.

      It was definitely a good lesson for those unfamiliar with the story, I would have liked to have seen a fuller biopic I think though. Childhood, his college days, his military service, etc. Still. It was an entertaining movie as is. ;)

    • His was the flashier movie character. He gave the speeches and had the jokes. I can see where people would think that, but I thought they had a nice balance. Rickey was an important part of the story, its only fair he be an important part of the movie. I definitely wouldnt say they didnt pay enough attention to Robinson…

  6. Not really a fan of baseball movies, or baseball in general, but this does look interesting. I’ll probably pick it up one slow-news day on Blu for a gander. Nice writing, Fogs. Love your work.

      • Whoaaaa….

        WOW. “Hate”? How can you “hate” baseball? And you have to move to Canada? Does that mean you’re FROM America? And you “hate” Baseball? 8O

        Maybe you should move to Canada… LOL :D

      • Hahah no I was joking! I just don’t enjoy sports in general. We can all agree that if sports didn’t get so much attention, movies would get more hahah. But yeah…I’m one of those diehard “watches the Super Bowl for commercials only” folks because football confuses me so much. Baseball is actually the only sport I do understand and (sort of…) enjoy. That and basketball. Still wouldn’t watch either though lol.

    • Pretty much the N word, said often, with gusto. LOL They dont really hold back, though I’m sure at the time, people were getting more creative. 8O

      I think if the kid has a good grounding in right and wrong, he’d be fine. Obviously the movie paints the racist hecklers as imbeciles and Robinson and Rickey as heroes, so… I’d think he could handle it. ;)

  7. Just finished my post, in agreement with most of what you wrote but I found the film a lot more moving. I know that it is conventional, but I prefer that for an historically important film like this is. The audience I saw it with applauded as well, and I participated enthusiastically. The film is not the Jackie Robinson story, it is the story of a key cultural turning point. that Robinson was a key part of. There were three or four great emotionally uplifting moments and one very amusing conversation, and of course the horrifying patter from the Phillies manager. It’s not the world we live in thanks to the principals involved: both Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson.

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  11. Good review, Fogs. I sometimes wonder how much historical films rely on the strength of the existing stories rather than making an effort themselves, so it’s nice to see that addressed in your review. Glad it was still worthy of A- though.

    I find baseball to be a sleeper of a sport, generally, but that doesn’t mean the story isn’t interesting.

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