By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
In 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers broke some major racial barriers when they signed African American baseball player Jackie Robinson. This courageous decision would set a precedent which would later influence efforts to remove the policy of segregation in all facets of everyday life, a policy first instituted with the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws. The decision to sign Robinson not only required courage on the part of the Dodgers organization, but also required Robinson to bravely step up in a mostly unfriendly and prejudiced climate.
Brooklyn Dodgers’ president and general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) boldly decides to recruit the first major league baseball player from the Negro leagues. After much consideration, Rickey and the traveling secretary Harold Parrott (T.R. Knight) select talented ball player Jackie Robinson despite his infamous temper. Rickey gives Robinson advice, both on public relations and spirtituality, as he will not only need to prove his talents to the world, but also his strength of character.
Writer/director Brian Helgeland (Payback, A Knight’s Tale) helms this adaptation of a most inspirational true story. Despite the built-in poignancy that comes from such a stirring story, Helgeland still manages to lay on the sentimentality a bit thick. In addition, some of his scenes get somewhat preachy in delivering its message. The message is an important one, but Helgeland doesn’t need to spoon feed his audience with a sugar chaser. Some of the more staged and contrived scenarios play out way too obviously. Despite these prosaic moments in the film, Helgeland does provide a good share of lovely and genuinely uplifting ones delivered beautifully by the stellar cast.
Chadwick Boseman performs wonderfully as the legendary number 42. He certainly has a powerful screen presence, but also can effectively emote the vulnerabilities of a man facing incredible odds. Harrison Ford has recently taken to act as the gruff and grouchy old codger in several of his roles which is what he brings to his character in this film, but at least in this film, he shows a more dynamic range and portrays the tenacious Branch Rickey as a dimensional and passionate character. The lovely and talented Nicole Beharie performs with strength, attitude, and grace. I’d like to see more leading performances by this exceedingly talent actress. The film also features great appearances by Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Lucas Black, Alan Tudyk, T.R. Knight and John C. McGinley.
Perhaps, my cinematically saturated sensibilities have grown a bit more cynical which is probably why I won’t give this film a higher rating, but I do believe that this crowd pleaser should go over tremendously with most audiences. Because of this, I will give 42 a high recommendation. Fans and non-fans of baseball should find the movie satisfying. It is a plot and story which doesn’t seem to grow old. As long as talented storytellers and filmmakers can pull it off, it never will.