Swanner: I always seem to like sports movies even though I’m not a real sports fan. It probably has to do with the inspirational aspect and the highly emotional nature of the story. You can imagine that a movie about Jackie Robinson’s climb from Negro League player to breaking the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947 is going to come with some highly emotional moments. In 42 you get both. The story starts in 1945 where Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is playing in the Negro leagues and is spotted by Dodger’s owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) as a player he’d like to farm out to his AAA team, the farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a huge year in Montreal, Rickey bring Robinson to the Dodgers as their new first basemen. In 1947 segregation was a part of life and some of the public showed unhappiness over Robinson placement of the Dodgers.
The film was written and directed by Brian Helgeland, the Oscar winner scribe of L.A. Confidential. Helgeland does a great job giving us the look and feel of the late 40’s in both panorama and hate. He doesn’t go too deep into Robinson’s personality because the events of his life are the real story. This isn’t a movie to show any scares Robinson may have had it’s a story of change and heroics. Boseman does a solid job playing Robinson. He’s subdued yet strong showing Robinson as a man who just happens to be the game changer. Harrison Ford does his best Tommy Lee Jones breathing life into Rickey and almost guaranteeing an Oscar nomination. The rest of the cast is great including Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Lucas Black and a terrific performance by Alan Tudyk playing the thankless role of Phillies coach Ben Chapman. An angry opponent of integrating anyone of color into all white baseball. He supplies some of the most uncomfortable verbal moments in the film.
The film does what it was intended to do, show the bravery of both Robinson and Rickey and how they changed the face of professional baseball. With the exception of a few scenes i felt were over the top schmaltzy the movie is excellent. As i said early, this is a movie to chronicle the events of the time and not a character study of Robinson. It’s a sports movie about integrating American baseball and that it does well. Had the studio released the film at the end of the baseball season I’d say this was an early Oscar contender. Either way 42 will be remembered with the likes of The Natural, Field Of Dreams, 61 and Moneyball. An Inspirational film with strong characters and a great message.
Swanner: 2 1/2 Stars