Movie Review – 42: The Jackie Robinson Story
42 is a home run! I figure I need to work on the quotable parts of my reviews, and that was the most obvious quote I could use for a baseball movie, and the movie was quite enjoyable too, so “home run” is a fitting analogy. 42 is based on the true events surrounding Jackie Robinson breaking major league baseball’s colour barrier in 1945. Branch Rickey is the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers and he wants to integrate black ball players into his team. Rickey’s primary motivation is simple: dollars aren’t black or white. They’re green. And if he has successful black players, he’ll sell more tickets to black spectators. Also, we learn that when Rickey was player-coach in his college days he saw the way the black catcher was treated on his team, despite his being the best player on the field. He felt he didn’t do enough to help the unfairly treated man at the time, and now hopes he can atone for that.
Rickey and the Dodgers’ management put together a list of players and select Jack Robinson as the subject of their “experiment”. Not only did they need a good ballplayer, they needed someone who was strong enough to take the abuse that would be directed at him, and not fight back. If Robinson had fought back, or lost his temper, the Dodgers’ efforts would have been for naught, and further integration of black players would have been pushed back even further.
It is difficult to know how to treat a movie like 42. In ways it is obviously a movie about racism, bigotry and the steps taken to counter them, but it can just be a baseball movie too. I don’t think it can be seen only as a baseball movie given the seriousness and importance surrounding Robinson’s career; but knowing that it is recorded history, and knowing how things work out in end I suppose you could.
42 was almost a highlight reel of Jackie Robinson’s first year in the majors, and by that I mean that it really didn’t teach me anything new, and that’s maybe why it came in sort of “middle of the road” for me. I knew something of some teammates attempts to rebel against integration; I even knew about Pee Wee Reese publicly showing his support by putting his arm around Jackie Robinson while in the infield before a game. I suppose it could be because the story of Jackie Robinson was so important and so big that there is little left to teach a real baseball fan. That being said, the real treat to the movie (for me) was the acting. Harrison Ford was excellent under a prosthetic chin, wig and nose while wearing a “fat suit”. Ford said he went to the trouble of “disguising” himself that way so that the movie (and his performance) would stand on their own. The 70 year old star wanted to take a bit more of a back seat role and let the audience watch 42 and not just another “Harrison Ford movie”, which I think is smart on his part. It is easy to overlook a story (or other cast members) when you are just watching something for the bankable star’s name. Christopher Meloni as Dodger’s coach Leo Durocher was very enjoyable, but Alan Tudyk was shockingly good with how he played racist Phillies manager, Ben Chapman so convincingly, I wanted Chadwick Boseman’s Jackie to deck him! Hearing some of the racial slurs being hurled was a bit of a shock I will admit. Boseman himself was a very convincing Robinson excelling at both the dramatic and athletic parts of the role.
Does 42 belong among great baseball movies like The Natural, Field of Dreams, Sandlot or Bull Durham? Perhaps, but maybe only because of the strong performances and the importance to history of the story it tells.
Posted on 13-07-25, in 3.5 Star, Movie Reviews and tagged 42, Alan Tudyk, baseball, Chadwick Boseman, Christopher Meloni, Harrison Ford, Jackie Robinson, movie, Nicole Beharie, review. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.