42 Movie Review
Race and sports collide in the feel-good drama 42, an entertaining if not particularly sophisticated story about the early career of Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in Major League Baseball.
42 follows Negro League shortstop Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) as he is recruited to the Brooklyn Dodgers by general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford). He must overcome a series of racist incidents to prove that he can play at the major league level.
The movie, one of the most financially lucrative baseball movies ever released, succeeds due to its earnestness and the performances by its stars. Directed by Brian Helgeland, 42 feels like a movie from a different era, one where there are heroes and villains and few people in between: Jackie Robinson is flawless, racists are racists and the only thing that matters is baseball. Helgeland offers a very simplistic, perhaps even superficial view of Robinson and the era, but the thing is...
The average moviegoer typically doesn't care.
Sometimes, especially when it comes to movies about sports, all you really need is good acting, fast pacing and some decent sport action scenes. And 42 delivers on all counts.
Boseman delivers a fine performance as Robinson; he looks the part and carries the film well. His chemistry with other cast, especially on-screen wife Nicole Beharie, is superb. He demonstrates good range in spite of the fact that 42 paints the athlete almost entirely in a positive light.
More impressive is Harrison Ford, who is nearly unrecognizable as the Dodgers' general manager. Recent years have the venerable actor branching into smaller, more versatile roles (not always successfully), and his portrayal of Branch Rickey is worlds apart from what most people expect of him.
Beyond the acting, 42 is simply a fun movie to watch. While the film does begin to get repetitive in its portrayals of racism (it would have been interesting to see deeper interactions with his teammates and other interpersonal challenges), it is entertaining, breezy and enjoyable from beginning to end.
Is 42 a deep character study? No. Is it award-winning material? No. But it is accessible, entertaining and engaging, which is all it needed to be. It's not quite a home run, but a solid double.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.