Inspiring. Earnest. Entertaining. “42” has all the makings of becoming a heroic sports classic.
“42” tells the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African- American baseball player to play in the big leagues. The film follows his life through all the trials and tribulations he faced during a time when racism was prevalent and ignorance was abundant.
The film is set in the mid-1940s when blacks and whites had separate teams. While the rest of the country seemed complacent about this segregation, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the Brooklyn Dodgers’ team executive, vows to make a change and break the color line. He recruits Robinson to play on the Dodgers minor league team, Montreal. After a successful season – despite racism’s pervasiveness – Rickey moves Robinson to the Dodgers for the 1947 season.
As we follow Robinson through the season, it becomes clear that nobody resents his placement on the Dodgers because of his talent, but because of the color of his skin. Robinson faces adversity at every turn, from bigots to teammates, but is able to keep his composure with the guidance of Rickey:
“You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?”
“I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.”
While his character is the moral compass that was the catalyst for change, Ford’s performance was underwhelming at best. He relies on a strange, SNL-Sean Connery voice that is overdramatic and unsettling. Rickey’s faith in Robinson is empowering, but at one point, he embraces Robinson at an upsetting moment; you could feel the entire audience wince in awkwardness.
Robinson is played by Chadwick Boseman, a refreshingly unknown face who was able to embody the mind, body and soul of an American legend. Combined with the clever writing, Boseman portrays Robinson as an enigmatic protagonist. His brooding and reverent demeanor makes him easy to relate to but hard to understand. The one thing to help him keep his composure: his unwavering and selfless wife, Rachel (Nicole Beharie). Their relationship is heartwarming and is the basis of his ability to persevere. It was apparent they both understood their journey was bigger than themselves.
While the racism puts a knot in your stomach, Robinson’s power to overcome all obstacles and incite change is stirring and motivational. “42” is the quintessential feel-good movie and is now in theaters.
BY BRIAN ASHBURN