Written by / 4/23/2013 / No comments / , , , ,

42

year: 2013 cast: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Alan Tudyk rating: *** 
Often feeling like a made-for-cable biopic, 42, named after Jackie Robinson’s number with the Brooklyn Dodgers – the first African American to play in the big leagues – is an entertaining film wherein the best moments take you out of the history lesson and right into the ballpark. Each game is pieced together with suspenseful precision, especially a pivotal scene where Robinson shuffles his way around the diamond: stealing every base and eventually making it home. While some of the weaker moments are still pretty decent… Scenes with Jackie and his wife are a little corny and yet both actors have genuine heartfelt chemistry.

But the real connection is between Robinson and Dodger's team executive Branch Rickey. Most of us grew up with Harrison Ford playing larger than life heroes, and he’s hardly been deemed a “character actor.” Well his performance is hit and miss: In one aspect he seems to be doing an imitation of an endearing old codger (especially when more believable old guys, like Max Gail, are on the screen). And although we never really learn why he got the sudden daring vision to allow blacks to play a “white man’s game,” his scenes with Jackie really make the moments on the field count. Also, it’s fun watching Rickey manipulate other coaches to do things his way.

The film’s star, Chadwick Boseman, is believable as Robinson, especially when he’s rounding the bases or trying hard not to fight (holding back against) his unruly adversaries: whether on the opposing team or his own. Although there’s a bit of a “Time Travel” aspect as Boseman’s performance often feels like a modern man knowing he’ll prevail over such a horribly banal thing as racism. Sure, standing tall with cocky pride is a worthy aspect of a legend, but too much determined realization takes away from a character, albeit a true life one, that could have used more of an arc for that struggle to seem more actual than celebrated.
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