Jackie Robinson is one of the most pivotal figures in the history of major league baseball as well as one of the most well-known heroes of racial equality. His unbelievable accomplishments have been heralded in history books and now in a biopic, 42. Does the movie live up to the man? Not quite.
By far, the best aspects of this movie are the characters. Veteran actor Harrison Ford (the Indiana Jones series) and relative newcomer Chadwick Boseman (Lincoln Heights) both successfully demonstrate their acting strengths in this otherwise okay movie.
It is strange seeing Harrison Ford as a character actor; the accent, the persona – everything is fantastic about him. His portrayal of Branch Rickey, the executive for the Brooklyn Dodgers whose only fear is apparently God himself, steals the show. The line he says to Robinson in the Brooklyn Dodgers office, “I want a ballplayer with the guts not to fight back,” sets the tone for the rest of the movie, which throws both Robinson and the viewer into situations which will cause more than a few people to clench their teeth in anger.
Boseman’s portrayal of Robison, the confident, and occasionally cocky, ball player who digs down to his very core to play a good game of baseball in front of racist teammates, crowds and even entire cities, gets the job done as much as the one dimensional script allows.
There are also other standout actors such as Christopher Meloni in his portrayal of the womanizing and outspoken manager of the Dodgers, Leo Derocher, who also provides a lot of laughs throughout the movie.
One thing that is still lagging after watching this movie is that it does not really delve too much into Robinson’s personal life. It has some personal scenes with him and his wife, portrayed by Nicole Beharie, and it has some scenes where Robinson briefly talks about his father. But in a film about an extraordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances, how can the director not tell the viewer about Robinson’s history and his struggles outside of baseball? Or the time when he was discharged from the military or the time he was talked out of being in a gang? After watching the film, there is a desire to see more of Jackie Robinson as a human being than as a hero with little to no flaws. Ultimately, this portrayal detracts from the legend as a whole, not enough to make this a bad movie, but enough to leave viewers wanting more.
Despite the flaws, 42 is still worth watching, but perhaps on television or Netflix. Most of the scenes are enjoyable, and there are definitely powerful and inspiring moments in the film. All of the actors are also good but there are not many personal connections to be had in this film, because there is not much depth to the characters. If you are a baseball fan or even just somewhat curious about Jackie Robinson’s history, then this film will provide you with a good time. But do not go into the theater expecting to see the definitive Jackie Robinson biopic. That title is reserved for hopefully another movie in the future.