Biographical films often leave audiences feeling shortchanged, but “42” hit most, if not all, of the right notes to satiate moviegoers.
“42” brings forth the story of Jackie Robinson, but does so with brevity. The movie does not attempt to make an overarching presentation of his life from childhood to death. Instead, the film focuses on the stretch when Robinson is noticed by the Brooklyn Dodger organization, its decision he would be the first black player in Major League Baseball, his time with its minor league affiliate and then his first year in the majors. This very brief period of coverage for such a historical figure may seem unjust, but brevity is key here. “42” doesn’t attempt to fly through detailed periods of life thereby muddying the storytelling in the process. Sometimes it’s best to tighten the scope of a project in order to properly gauge the gravity of the situation.
Acting was solid all around as everyone understood the importance of their role. Chadwick Boseman gave Jackie Robinson the duality you would expect in such a position. In one moment he was at ease with a big smile and in another he was seething with rage while telling only through his eyes. Robinson was shown to have a temper which he kept out of public view, and this is important to note as Robinson did not turn the other cheek his whole career as has been the story told by some.
Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, was great to watch. He interacted perfectly with the rest of the cast. He exuded the air of authority the owner of an organization probably should, but he didn’t overreach with anything. His gruff, old man voice made me forget it was Ford performing several times, and that allowed me to sink into the experience even more.
I won’t go over all of the performances, but just know there were no weak links in the cast.
Going into “42” I was a bit nervous about one thing though, and that was the possibility of Jay-Z being used within the film at some point. The trailers for the movie used his song “Brooklyn We Go Hard”, and it made me cringe a bit. I didn’t cringe because I don’t like Jay-Z, but because I didn’t appreciate the content of the song being tied to such a film. I like Jay-Z, but not for this. The line “I jack, I rob, I sin / awww man, I’m Jackie Robinson / ‘cept when I run base I dodge the pen,” while clever, does not equate to what the filmmakers wanted or what Robinson was about. But no worries, the song was absent along with any dubstep you may have heard in alternate trailers.
If you still haven’t seen “42” then go change that. I saw it opening weekend, and I’m glad I did. If only I had written this in a more timely manner.
I have reviews for “The Place Beyond The Pines”, “Oblivion” and “Pain & Gain” coming shortly.