Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5
42 is the story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) breaking the color barrier in baseball in 1947. It focuses on a relatively short time span, starting a couple of years prior to Robinson coming up when Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford!), the Brooklyn Dodger’s General Manager, decides to break the color barrier, and goes through Robinson’s first major league season in 1947.
For the most part, I liked the movie although there were certain parts where they took poetic license and factual liberties that were just unnecessary. For example, in the movie Leo Durocher says his famous ‘Nice Giuys Finish Last’ line when talking to Rickey about whether Robinson was tough enough to make it with all the abuse he took. I knew this wasn’t the proper context. There were other things like that, such as Branch Rickey miraculously showing up in the tunnel by the dugout at the precise moment that Robinson needs an inspiring speech. During the rest of the movie Rickey is comfortably seated in the stands. Gratuitously including things like this made me question more important part of the movie: were Ralph Branca and Pee Wee Reese correctly portrayed so positively or was it for dramatic effect?
For sports movies, the first thing that can ruin it is the quality of the sports scenes (think Gary Cooper in Pride of the Yankees). Here the movie did OK. The actors could all play pretty well. I think I did audibly groan however when Robinson got on base for the first time and started smiling as he prepared to steal a few bases.
I was surprised how much Harrison Ford looked and sounded like old clips of Branch Rickey I remember seeing, and I thought Boseman, for the most part, did a good job capturing the intensity of Robinson. The movie did a good job of showing the abuse Robinson must have taken (although I’m sure it was much worse) and the racism of the times from both the fans and the players..
The discrimination depicted in the movie is relevant in today’s world as demonstrated by recent discussions about whether men’s professional sports are ready for openly gay athletes.
Right now there are a couple of other movies I’d put ahead of this, but if you’re a big fan of history, sports or both, this film is worth considering.