Based on the trailers and cast (or lack thereof), 42 doesn’t have much going for it; trailers have made it out to be a preachy melodrama and the only known leading actor, Harrison Ford, hasn’t made a worthwhile picture in more than a decade. But even with low expectations and negative prejudices, 42 is actually much better than it appears.
Anyone who knows the slightest bit about major league baseball knows the name of Jackie Robinson – but not everyone knows the whole story that lead to him becoming one of the most iconic ball players of all time. 42 isn’t so much an origins story about Robinson, but a detailed account of how he became the first black man to play in the majors. It all starts with Branch Rickey.
Rickey was the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the accompanying minor and black league sister teams. Sensing that the game would soon evolve and allow blacks to play in the majors, Rickey decided that he was going to firmly plant his feet and be the man to instigate it. He did his homework, found the best ball player of the black league, Robinson, and prepped him for the world-changing trial to come.
42 contains a strong balance of baseball, Robinson’s character, Rickey’s character and racial history. The heightened push on racism shown in the trailers isn’t present, nor is the sense of manipulative melodrama. Instead, the movie flows naturally and genuinely.
Although Ford’s performance is still on the hammy side, it’s much better than anything he has given in the last several. Surprisingly, little-known television actor Chadwick Boseman knocks it out of the park. Lesser known actors Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Lucas Black and Alan Tudyk also give solid performances.
42 isn’t as great as baseball classics Moneyball, The Sandlot or Field of Dreams, but it’s definitely worth watching.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.