42 movie review
42 does it’s best to tell the story of Jackie Robinson, and while all of it’s performances are wonderful, it comes up short in the story and character development department, which is nuts because… ya know, Jackie Robinson!
The movie gives us a glance at about three years in Robinson’s life: his last season with the Kansas City Monarchs, his year in the Brooklyn Dodger’s minor league system and his first season with the Dodgers proper. While the movie does do a good job of showing how hard it must have been for Robinson to resist the temptation to fight back against the constant onslaught of racism, it really doesn’t tell us anything else about him. You know, simple things that all bio pics usually drop in – what his childhood was like, where he was born, where he grew up… there are a few (and by ‘few,’ I mean maybe three) lines of dialogue that serve this need, but they never show us anything – sometimes, they tell us stuff, and that’s just a violation of Story Telling 101. The only thing this movie tells you about Robinson is that he had a temper, held it in check, and was a good baseball player. It never really illustrates how good he really was or how the style of base running he brought from the Negro League to MLB changed the game, or how he felt about his larger than life legend (because the movie ends before that really takes off)… or, really, any of the questions I would have liked a Jackie Robinson movie to answer. For example, they show him running the bases a lot, but they never show anyone else running the bases, so it’s hard for the audience to understand what made Robinson’s base running so special. Things are incomplete or just left out. Here’s another example: I think it’s easy to say that the most famous moment of Robinson’s career was stealing home in the 1955 world series. Yogi Berra still maintains to this day that Robinson was out. Even when looking at the video, it’s still too close to call and is probably the most famous play in baseball (outside of the shot heard round the world) but it didn’t make it in to the movie. This seemed like a logical place for the movie to end, but this movie doesn’t follow story logic. There’s a beginning (or a first act, if you will – we meet the characters, the plot gets set in motion), but there’s not much of a second act, or a point in the film where the protagonist is in a tough spot. I guess it’s when he’s not accepted by some teammates, other baseball players/officials and fans, but it comes off weak from a narrative standpoint, and for a guy who’s life was as dramatic as it was, I think they could have done better. Then there’s the end, when he’s kinda accepted by most people… so I guess that’s it, but it’s not very satisfying and I think a better ending would have been showing Jackson succeeding on baseball’s largest stage… Also, while the baseball action looks good, it’s not shown in a way that fits any kind of narrative – see 61* for baseball scenes that fit into a story. All this adds up to writer/director Brian Helgeland not doing a very good job of setting or executing a story.
I’m mostly done complaining now. As previously mentioned, the performances were great. Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie were both wonderful as the Robinsons and had great chemistry together. I love John C. McGinley, and I’m sure he was emulating a real baseball announcer, but he was putting me to sleep – yet he was still very good. I forget the narrator’s name, but he disappeared for a large chunk of the movie despite that he seemed to be present all the time. Harrison Ford was also great, and I didn’t really fixate on the fact that he was Harrison Ford hardly at all, but his character has way to much screen time. I appreciate that he’s central to the story, but sheesh.
42 isn’t bad, and it’s certainly a must for baseball and biopic fans, but it’s not especially well-developed. I’m giving this flick a 6.5 out of 10.
Posted on April 22, 2013, in movie review and tagged 42, Brian Helgeland, Brooklyn Dodgers, Chadwick Boseman, harrison ford, Jackie Robinson, John C. McGinley, movie review, movies, Nicole Beharie. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.