Monday, April 29, 2013

42 (2013)

Rated: PG-13

Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie

Director: Brian Helgeland

Genre: Biopic 

To understand the institutionalized racism that existed in the United States prior to 1964, one must  appreciate the value of travel and education. During this shameful period in America's history, there were many whites--most notably in the south--who hadn't so much as popped open a book  or even traveled outside their home county.  Through education we learn about other cultures. Through  travel we are exposed to other cultures. The more we learn about and are exposed to other cultures, the more tolerant we usually become.  So--especially if you were born subsequent to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964--and still find it difficult to comprehend just what the HELL was wrong with people back then... the answer is that a good many of them were just rubes...and dumber than a stick.

It is said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Unfortunately, ignorance WAS  the law during that era, and that's what Jackie Robinson came up against as  the first black   player to break the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947. 

42 is  a straightforward, feelgood rendering of the young Mr. Robinson's career, starting from his stint in the Negro Leagues,  up to and through being tapped by Branch Rickey-(Harrison Ford) -president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers--to join the team.  And  the rest, as they say, is history.  

It's not really a baseball movie--it's a film about triumph over adversity--and as such, with Mark Isham's stirring  music score that never lets up, the movie had the audience blubbering and sniffling all the way through. Why do people cry when they are feeling uplifted? That's beyond the scope of this review and beyond my pay grade!

42 pulls no punches in showing you much of the ugly harassment Jackie Robinson  (Chadwick Boseman) endured,  not only from fans and opposing teams, but from his own teammates as well. And then one of his teammates finally grows the balls to confront a manager who is spewing the "N" word from the opposing dugout, and we are off again feeling around for that second box of tissue. 

Newcomer Chadwick Boseman should be able to parlay his competent performance here into another major role somewhere.

Harrison Ford obviously studied Branch Rickey's folksy speech affectations, but he lays it on a bit thick here, and comes off as playing a character rather than being the character. Still, the innate decency of a man who was willing to take a stand and stick to his guns--changing societal attitudes forever--shines through.  

42 is no more or less than what I expected to see going in--the canonization of Jackie Robinson--but hey, the guy deserves it. That doesn't mean, however, that a movie as predictable and emotionally manipulative as this one deserves the highest grade.

I'm giving it a "B" for baseball!  

Grade:  B