‘42’ honors Jackie Robinson 66 years later
Directed by Brian Helgeland
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford and Nicole Beharie
Four out of five stars
Before the 1947 season, Major League Baseball reflected a segregated society with black players competing separately while white players comprised the entirety of the Major Leagues.
That year, Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) finally broke the color barrier and joined the Brooklyn Dodgers as their first baseman.
Robinson was recruited by Dodgers executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), who had a great passion for the game and saw an inequality in the sport that he could help fix … plus ticket sales wouldn’t hurt either.
While becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball, Robinson faced harsh racism wherever he went, including from his own teammates.
The film doesn’t pull punches with the vitriol either. Opposing manager Ben “Racism Incarnate” Chapman (Alan Tudyk) unleashes enough n-bombs at Robinson to make Quentin Tarantino wipe his brow.
Overall, the film paints Robinson as a strong-willed man in the face of so much adversity, weathering a storm that might make weaker men crumble. Boseman proves to be a very capable actor in his portrayal of Robinson, showing his range in quieter scenes of vulnerability.
Ford also gives a strong performance as Branch Rickey. It’s nice to see him committed to a role this late in his career when he seems more content to phone it in.
The film is layered in schmaltz and seems content to feel more like a heart-warming ABC Family Movie than a true biopic.
However, it does pull the right strings and has its moving moments, even if you can see the puppeteer working.
“42” isn’t the best biopic or even the best baseball movie but it’s a crowd-pleasing tribute to a fearless man who helped pave the way for generations of ballplayers who followed in Robinson’s sterling example.
Frank Miller is a Sacramento writer.