Review: 42

racism in baseball


THE SETUP: Being the first at anything usually sucks. I’m pretty sure even Neil Armstrong was crapping himself using equipment that today we would probably sell on Craigslist for a 100 bucks. Now try being the first black baseball player in all white baseball, hated by half the audience and set to unrealistic standards by the other. That would suck. But it makes it suck less for those that come after.

THE THOUGHTS: I love a baseball movie. I recently wrote about how the story, not the sport, keeps me coming back. So a movie about breaking the racial barriers of baseball by one of the greatest sports legends ever…and Han Solo helps make it happen? Count me in. However, what I found was a good tale well told, not a great movie that could have sparked inspiration.

YAYS: The tale of Jackie Robinson and his struggle to be accepted in mainstream sports is a story begging to be told in a movie. It’s amazing it hasn’t been done very much. 42 lays out the story well, giving us a really good sense of the man and what he had to go through, even if it was a little predictable.

The acting really raised the bar though. The script may have been a bit obvious and ham-handed, but the performances and the emotion behind them were fantastic. You felt, really felt, the pure frustration of Robinson when he could only take the racial hate and not give/fight back. Taking the high road was painful and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie really let us know. It was also nice to see Harrison Ford in an “acting his age supporting role.” Hopefully this is where he finds his niche. Hopefully.

NAYS: If you wanted a movie that went from A to B with no surprises, no unexpected drama, no originality, then you get it with 42. Everything you expect to happen, does. I’m not saying it’s a terrible thing but there are plenty of movies about baseball and/or racism that have done it a lot better, and more intensily. When there’s a conclusion we all know, the ride to get there should be a little more interesting or emotional.

42 Rating:

3 stars  good movie, take a friend. A made-for-TV script is elevated to goodness thanks to its direction and its lead actor. An important story that could have been so much more but settles for “fairly good.”

Random Recommendations

L.A. Confidential (1997) – Written by the director of 42, Brian Helgeland shows us another snapshot in time, only this one is more of the crime variety. Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, James Cromwell deliver an awesome, intense thriller where all the actors leave it on the table (even Basinger got an Oscar).

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