By Dan Metcalf
Clipper Film Correspondent
42 (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including language.
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Lucas Black, Andre Holland, Alan Tudyk, Hamish Linklater, T.R. Knight, John C. McGinley, Toby Huss, Max Gail.
Written and directed by Brian Helgeland.
I love baseball. It's a great game with a great history. Some of that history wasn't all that pretty, especially when it came to racism in the major leagues. Two men changed all of that back in 1947 when Dodger owner Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers. The breaking down of the “color barrier” in Major League baseball is the subject of 42.
Harrison Ford plays Rickey, the stubborn Dodger owner who decides that his team will be the first in decades to allow a black player to play in the Majors. Rickey hand-picks Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to be that man, but tells him that retaliation against racial abuse cannot be tolerated. Robinson takes Rickey's challenge, but soon finds out that keeping his temper in check is much harder than he imagined.
Besides dealing with spring training in the segregated south, Robinson must also deal with extreme racism among his own Dodger teammates. Not all the Dodgers are harsh, but most of them are willing to allow others to abuse Robinson, both physically and verbally.
Over time, Robinson wins over most of his teammates by holding his temper, even in extreme circumstances.
The rest, as they say, is history. It's not spoiling anything to say that Robinson really did break through the “color barrier” with more class than most people could, and did so while performing heroically on the field.
42 is a sweet homage to Robinson's legacy, even if it romanticizes some of the torture he had to endure. Boseman's portrayal of the Hall of Fame player is adequate, but perhaps a little too sweet for such a fierce competitor. Harrison Ford's performance as Branch Rickey will more than likely garner some consideration for post-season acting awards, even if he sometimes forces the “folksy” nature of the character. Other supporting actors do a splendid job of recreating the mid 20th Century setting, most notably John C. McGinley as legendary Dodgers radio announcer Red Barber.
To use a baseball metaphor, 42 isn't exactly a home run, but a solid triple. It's a little too sentimental for a movie about a real triumph, but powerful enough to remind us of how far we've come.