Jackie Robinson is a true legend. Even people who never watch baseball know of him, because his achievements went past the sport itself, he broke the racial barrier baseball had, which was a huge step towards ending the segregation in America during the 1950’s and 60’s. With such a great story, its a great mystery how Robinson’s story has yet to inspire a feature length film. Sure, there are a fair share of made for television films on Robinson, but never on a big scale has the life of Robinson been told. That all changes with 42.
Heading into 42, skeptical thoughts ran threw me about the film. The trailers were fine, but overall unimpressive, with a terrible use of the dreadful “Brooklyn We Go Hard” by Jay Z. The trailer displayed a scale that was similar for a made to TV film, which is ironic. The only element really keeping me hopeful was my appreciation for baseball and the potential that the Robinson story had. Despite my meek expectations for the movie, 42 turned out to be a solid hit in the biopic and sports genre, bringing honor to Robinson’s name.
42 is the story of Jackie Robinson, a former WWII soldier who takes on the world of baseball during the 40’s, a time filled with racial animosity in America.
To make this movie good, the actor playing Jackie Robinson had to fit the bill, and Chadwick Boseman really fits the bill. First, I would love to express my admiration for the fact the team behind the film did not pick a name actor, who they could sell as being part of the movie, instead going with a no-name actor. For a wide release to do this takes guts, and shows a real respect towards the story that is being told. Boseman is charming, affable, and emotionally potent when he has to be. He commands the screen, and does justice to Jackie. Look for Boseman to have a jump start to his career after this, as he is much deserving to have a future in Hollywood.
Playing alongside him is Harrison Ford, who may be known for his groundbreaking roles, but recently as starred in quite a few bombs. Here, Ford is at his best, pleasing audiences with his roaring remarks, and his always great grumpy attitude. Ford also feels genuine, as he shares a great chemistry with Boseman. As an audience, we feel and warm up to their chemistry, which is overall the heart and soul of the film.
The supporting cast is loaded with talent, and they all do a good job here as well. Talented actors like Alan Tudyk, Lucas Black, Christopher Merloni, Nicole Beharie, James Pickens Jr., and even the great John C. McGinley do solid work with their small, but meaningful roles.
Both directing and writing 42 is Brian Helgeland, who has a somewhat mixed resume. While he has wrote and directed some good films like A Knight’s Tale, he has also written Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant and the newest Robin Hood. However, here Helgeland does a solid job.
Helgeland’s script is very well done. The film has a lot of meaningful speeches, and just great moments of conversation. The script also has a fair share of comedy bits, and most of them work, successfully lightening the mood. Also shown is the true disgusting nature of the bigotry of the times, which helps in creating realism and showing the truly villainy of the bigots.
The direction is also well done. Helgeland knows when to be restrained and stylish. The baseball scenes are shot well here, capturing the action, along with also capturing the overall excitement of the sport, with some well done sped up shots. Teaming up with cinematographer Don Burgess, the two get a fair share of great shots, showing the true legend of Robinson.
It also has to be said, this film is over two hours long, and rarely has a dull moment. The movie kept me invested and involved, which for a two hour plus movie, isnt always the easiest task. That is an achievement in itself.
The movie is very melodramatic at points. Whenever the emotion comes, the movie beats its audience over the head with an over-the-top score, almost forcing its audience to feel for it. Moments like that take away from the true emotion and human nature of the emotional scenes, as the team behind the film are just manipulating people, which is sad, because they show that they are better than that.
The movie also paints a rather simplistic painting of its characters. Everyone in the movie is either a clear cut good guy, or an evil bastard. This simplistic way of displaying people takes away from the realism as well, as regular people are far from being clear cut good or evil.
The editing in the film is messy. The movie has a lot of scenes that feel out of place, and makes awkward cuts to moments that dont coincide with the previous events at all. While this doesnt happen all the time, it takes away from the smooth nature of the pacing from time to time.
A minor complaint, but an element of historical movies that really bothers me, is that the film always has its color drained, possibly to give the film more of a look of the time being depicted. Here is a news flash, the world wasn’t magically darker seventy years ago, it was the same color it is now, so there is no need to add a brown tint to the film, as it just makes the film look worse.
This was a tough one, as the film constantly rode the two to three beer barrier throughout. In the end, this is a popcorn flick of a biopic, being pleasing yet inoffensive enough for all audiences to be able to digest. Still, 42 is very well done, but greatness was missed trying to please everyone.
Take a Drink: when you see an actor who you have seen before
Do a Shot: when you see Alan Tudyk in hilarious make-up.
Take a Drink: every time the uproarious score plays.
Do a Shot: when you picture Dr. Cox in the movie instead of whoever John C. McGinley was playing.