Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Brian Helgeland, Legendary and Warner Bros. Pictures who put it out on the field for 42.
This film tells the Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a minor league baseball player for the Kansas City Monarchs. Watching him is Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) who is interested in bringing him up to the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Normally this wouldn’t seem an issue except for the fact that Jackie Robinson is a player in the Negro Baseball League. Its 1947 and the separation between black and white is clear. Rickey doesn’t care and takes Jackie through the Montreal team to see how he will handle the pressures.
Rickey also hires Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), a Negro sports writer who is forced to sit on the third base line to do his writing. He drives Jackie and tries to keep an eye on him.
Andrew Jackie’s wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie) along with Rickey are the only two people that can keep him centered as he faces problems with team mates, players on other teams, the press and baseball fans in the stands.
FINAL WORD: Boseman as Robinson, and here’s where I’m probably going to get hate mail, lends nothing to this role. I’m neither moved by his plight nor impressed by the characters athletic skills. Why you ask? I’ll be happy to tell you, because Boseman portrays Robinson as an angry player with a chip on his shoulder towards – EVERYONE. He smiles twice in the film that I can see and the rest of the time his eyebrows are squished up, eyes are angry and nothing much comes out of his mouth.
Perhaps that is how writer/director Helgeland intended the character to be played and if that’s the case all well and good. However, if you want me to feel for a character and become wrapped up in a story then give me SOMETHING about the character I can get behind.
Ford spent his time with drawn in eyebrows covered with out of control caterpillars trying desperately NOT to sound like Harrison Ford. Other than that his character is basically Robinson’s cold compress to keep his player from blowing up.
Beharie as Rachel is the well-dressed California baseball wife who gets to travel with the team. No other wives, just Rachel. In California the world of black/white separate bathrooms wasn’t something she had ever seen before. She is basically Robinson’s cheerleader but other than that she has no identity of her own.
Holland as Smith is fine in this role. He is the major narrator of the story following Jackie’s early career and helping him acclimate to the constant changes of his life.
Another sad part of this film is the actors that played the team and managers. As much as I love Meloni, Black and Gail I just don’t know why they were there. The characters are made to look like adulterous, back woods red neck, wussies – and in that order.
Other cast include: Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher, Ryan Merriman as Dixie Walker, Lucas Black as Pee Wee Reese, Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman, Hamish Linklater as Ralph Branca, T. R. Knight as Harold Parrott, John C. McGinley as Red Barber, Toby Huss as Clyde Sukeforth, Max Gail as Burt Shotton, Brad Beyer as Kirby Higbe and James Pickens Jr. as Mr. Brock.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give 42 three tubs of popcorn out of five. The good news here is that the film isn’t plagued with Jay-Z rapping as shown in the trailer. I was drawn in because it’s a period piece and was hoping beyond hope they would stay true to detail, including music, which gratefully they did. The costuming is extraordinary, soundtrack fantastic, the feel is very 1940’s and that kept me briefly happy.
Okay folks, here comes some straight honesty about the film – ready? I did get bored. Instead of balancing out Jackie’s racial issues and baseball, there is very little about his skills on the field. Instead, its quick scenes of implied gang threats and a ridiculously unnecessary tirade by Chapman (Tudyk) that makes any complaints about DJANGO UNCHAINED invalid.
Yes the audience cheered, its nice to see ignorant people get their comeuppance but they didn’t cheer for Jackie’s playing because there wasn’t much to cheer for!
I personally think Jackie Robinson deserved a better film that isn’t filled with melodrama, long drawn out scenes with racial slurs, overly played pep talk scenes and people looking for redemption. How about a straight up story for a change – I know, wishful thinking on my part.
In the end – in a game divided by color he made them see greatness.
For more information on films and television visit Movie Maven.