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Movie Review: 42

April 12, 2013

42 Poster42 – A Warner Bros. Pictures’ Release

http://42movie.warnerbros.com

Release Date: April 12th, 2013

Rated PG for mature themes and language

Running time: 128 minutes

Brian Helgeland (dir.)

Brian Helgeland (writer)

Mark Isham (music)

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey

Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson

Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher

Ryan Merriman as Dixie Walker

Lucas Black as Pee Wee Reese

Andre Holland as Wendell Smith

Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman

Hamish Linklater as Ralph Branca

T.R. Knight as Harold Parrott

John C. McGinley as Red Barber

Toby Huss as Clyde Sukeforth

42

©Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) in 42.

Our reviews below:

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42 Review By John C.

*** (out of 4)

Before 1945, baseball was a segregated game, until the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) decided to sign Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to his team.  The young player faced ugly racism throughout the United States, as he slowly gained the acceptance of his team and finally broke down barriers to become a baseball legend, forever immortalizing the number 42.

This is the true story behind 42, a great and inspiring one that has been brought to screen with strong performances and good scenes on the baseball field, under the direction of writer Brian Helgeland.  The strongest moment comes from an extended sequence where Jackie Robinson is forced to endure racism from Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) while in play, before breaking down and leaving the stadium, and finally going back out to finish the game.  This is a powerful moment, and it’s sad to think that this actually happened in real life, without more public outcry.

Chadwick Boseman knocks it out of the park throughout 42, particularly in these scenes.  Harrison Ford is also quite good in his nearly unrecognizable supporting performance, and Alan Tudyk brings an unexpected ignorance and nastiness to his small but integral role.  Although the film sometimes feels like a by the numbers recreation of events, these performances elevate it.  The screenplay is a little methodical in the way that it date stamps every moment of Jackie Robinson’s life, rather than specifically playing up any key events.  The film is well done on a scene by scene basis, even though it sometimes feels a little slow moving as a whole.  But the scenes on the field are consistently good.

The story of Jackie Robinson was an inspiring one because he refused to give up, even when facing death threats and ugly segregation.  The number 42 is associated with a man who took risks that shook the public perspective, where 42 doesn’t really take any risks of its own.  Although this sometimes pedestrian approach to storytelling keeps the film from reaching the legendary status that the title number suggests, 42 is worth seeing for the good performances from Alan Tudyk, Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman, three actors who always rise to the challenge.

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42 Review by Erin V.

*** (out of 4)

The year was 1945.  The war had just ended and America was getting back to normal – except their version of normal was about to be shaken up as Dodgers’ GM Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) has just decided that he wants to bring the first African-American player into Major League Baseball.  After looking through stats on local teams, he chooses to bring Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a young player from Kansas onto the farm team for the Dodgers, the Montréal Royals.  By starting him here, where the idea of integration was not so far-fetched, he was able to assimilate into the game and show the country that he was a player worth having on their side.

When he finally did get moved up to the Dodgers in ’46, he was faced with adversity and racism from many, both on and off the diamond, who felt that he was tainting ‘white baseball.’  But over that season, he managed to not only beat the odds and stay in the game, but also become one of the greatest players in the league.

The film does cover a lot in its just over two hour running time, which may make the plot points feel a little rushed to some, but overall I found it to work out fine for what it was.  The acting is superb, in particular from Boseman and Ford, and there are many very powerful scenes.  42 tells this story to a new generation and is one worth seeing.

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42 Review by Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Many people remember the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black player for a Major League Baseball team.  But for those who don’t know the story, or just want to relive it, 42 provides an entertaining and inspiring look at the historical tale.  It’s 1947, a year when colour segregation was still prevalent in many states.  When Brooklyn Dodgers G.M. Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) is looking for a new player, everyone is shocked when he chooses Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a talented player from a baseball team for black players.

Rickey believes that baseball players should be chosen based on talent, not skin colour, an idea unpopular at the time.  Rickey first places Robinson with the Montréal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers farm team.  Robinson shows great promise.  Not only is he an excellent player, he stands up for himself.  But Robinson’s greatest challenge will be when he moves from the Montréal Royals to the Dodgers.  While racism was minimal in 1940s Canada, it was rampant in much of 1940s USA.

42 is an inspiring film.  It reminds us how far society has come in terms of equality issues.  However, there is still more to be done in terms of equality and civil rights.  Jackie Robinson stood up to the bigotry of his time, inspiring many people to change the world for the better.  His story continues to inspire many people today.

What I also really liked about the film were all the Christian elements.  It is rare to find a movie these days that speaks of religion in a positive light.  The film even ends with a baseball inspired Gospel song.  42 is touching and uplifting, and will appeal to a wide audience from older kids to seniors.

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42 Review by Maureen

*** (out of 4)

A whole lot has changed in the world of baseball since post-WWII 1945.  Much of that is thanks to the bold decisions of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to sign on a black ballplayer and Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) who courageously agreed to be the first black man to play on an all-white team.

42 retells the well-known story of how Jackie Robinson moved up from playing baseball on a local all black team to the Brooklyn Dodgers farm team the Montréal Royals, and finally to the Dodgers where he helped the team win the World Series.  During that time Robinson faced numerous threats and racial taunts and only gradual acceptance from his fellow players.

The story is told through the narration and typewriter of sports reporter Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) who also faced racial segregation.  As a “coloured” reporter, he was forced to sit in the “coloured stands” rather than in the press box with the other reporters.  42 follows a linear timeline with date stamps tellings us the where and whens of Jackie Robinson‘s history with the Dodgers in the two years after Branch Rickey discovered him.

This device works for those who like to stick to the facts and like baseball history.  However, it does keep the storytelling a little too safe and doesn’t allow much in-depth look at Jackie Robinson the man.

On the plus side, Chadwick Boseman is really good as Jackie Robinson, lighting up every scene he’s in.  Some of the scenes where Robinson is stealing bases are pure baseball fun.  The more dramatic moments where no. 42, Robinson is enduring taunts from opposing teams are believable and well-acted.  Harrison Ford is also fun to watch as the ornery Branch Rickey.  The numerous scenes between the two men are all interesting to watch.  The rest of the supporting cast are also good.  Nicole Beharie works nicely as Jackie’s wife Rachel and Andre Holland is a steady presence as the dedicated reporter.

Overall, 42 is an enjoyable, well-acted baseball movie.  Fans looking for some good baseball segments will be pleased.  Those looking for an inspiring story about overcoming racial prejudice will also be pleased.  Though a little long at over two hours, 42 is a movie older kids can enjoy with parents and grandparents, especially if they’re baseball fans.

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42 Review by Tony

*** (out of 4)

Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) was the first MLB player (#42) to break the color line in 1947, invited by the visionary Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to first join his Montreal Royals farm team and then his Brooklyn Dodgers. Though not the best black player available at the time, Robinson was an excellent athlete in several sports and university graduate. He had been in the service and was honourably discharged, but never saw combat because he was busy (successfully) fighting trumped up charges for refusing to sit at the back of a bus.

Branch Rickey challenged Robinson to have the courage to not fight back when challenged by life threats, a petition by his own team, hostile crowds and abuse from opposing teams. The film’s action ends at the end of his first season, where Robinson distinguished himself as an infielder, hitter, and especially for stealing bases, earning the first Rookie of the Year title.

With narration by the pioneering black sports journalist and Robinson supporter Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), 42 plays like a good old fashioned biopic. Key moments of Robinson’s early career are covered, including his marriage to college sweetheart Rachel (Nicole Beharie), his famous recruitment interview with Rickey, the initially hostile reaction of teammates, and a good selection of baseball highlights. Both Boseman and Ford are excellent, supported by a strong cast.

Two of the most memorable scenes include taunting from the redneck Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) and the pregame embrace of Robinson by teammate Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) which turned the Cincinnati crowd from jeering to acceptance.

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Consensus: Although the screenplay follows the standard biopic formula, 42 is carried by strong performances from Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford, serving as a fine introduction to the inspiring true story of Jackie Robinson.  *** (Out of 4)

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