In my opinion, Jackie Robinson is one of the most important people in the history of sports. Robinson breaking the baseball color line not only changed the sports landscape, but America as well. I can only imagine the ignorant abuse Robinson endured in his first year in the majors from fans, peers and even his own teammates. What Robinson did was a brave and an amazing feat of personal perseverance. It’s just a shame that 42 swings and misses when bringing the courageous story of Jackie Robinson to the big screen.
One of the main problems I had with 42 is the film was so rushed and only spanned a small part of Robinson’s major league experience – from his year in the minors with Montreal to his breakthrough in 1947. I know the first season is integral, but it just seemed so much was left out of the film. I would have loved to see the gradual change of views as other African-American teammates joined him on the Dodgers. The speed of the film is as quick as Robinson running down the baseline. Unfortunately the pace gives 42 no time to develop a deeper story.
The acting can’t save the pace of 42 either. Chadwick Boseman looks the part of Robinson, but that’s where my praise stops. Boseman brings little depth or character to his portrayal of Jackie Robinson. I know producers like to cast unknowns in these situations, but having an actor with bit roles on television to take on the iconic role was a mistake. The other characters are very one-dimensional as well. We have the people who are for Jackie and the ones against. The only character that is given any substance is Branch Rickey, but Harrison Ford plays him as if he was a character on Saturday Night Live. The pivotal character of Rickey could have been great but instead he comes across as a goofy, rambling impression from Ford.
Robinson was an important figure in American history and his story deserves better than this cheesy rendition. Maybe 42 should have been a more serious film and not relied on forced sentimental moments that were poorly acted. My other issue was it seemed racism just cured itself half way through the film. There is no way that was the case. Robinson’s battles went far past his rookie year. I’m positive a few base hits and a pat on the back from Pee Wee Reese didn’t cure the intolerance of Americans in 1947.
I think a television series would have been a far better vehicle to show the struggles and triumphs Robinson had over his career. That way we could see the views of people change over a long period of time rather than have Jackie steal a few bases and suddenly have everyone accept him as it was portrayed in 42. Overall, I give 42 2 potatoes out of 4.
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