movie film review | chris tookey


© Warner Bros. - all rights reserved
  42 Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
5.77 /10
Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford ,

Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Written by: Brian Helgeland

Released: 2013
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 128

Inspirational sports movie.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

42 is a plodding, traditional sports film by writer-director Brian Helgeland. Itís a heart-on-sleeve, doggedly inspirational hagiography of Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball-player to play in the major League.

Everything here is corny, formulaic and didactic. Nothing surprises, especially not the score, which surges patriotically during every moment of emotion.

Robinson (Chadwick Boseman, pictured left) Ė ever noble, dignified and long-suffering Ė comes across as much too good to be true.

Harrison Ford (right) steals the movie as gruff old codger Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager who promoted Robinsonís career.

Helgelandís finest hour came when he won a screenwriting Oscar in 1997 for LA Confidential; this is nowhere near the same level. Characters speechify rather than talk. Everything is melodramatic.

But the film does tell a moving story and delivers a worthwhile message, about the importance of turning the other cheek. The theme it underplays is the Methodist faith that linked Robinson and Rickey, and enabled both men to rise above the prejudices of the post-war era.

It also chooses to ignore both menís politics. Youíd never know it from the film, but they were Right-wing Republicans. Robinson supported Richard Nixon when he ran for the Presidency against John F. Kennedy, testified against Paul Robeson before the House Un-American Activities Committee and questioned the patriotism of Martin Luther King when he opposed the war in Vietnam.

Likewise, the movie pretends by omission that Robinson was one of a kind. He wasnít. A black pitcher named John Wright was also recruited by Rickey for spring training, but never got promoted. And a black man called Dan Bankhead played four games for the Dodgers in the same season that Robinson made his Major League debut.

But hey, itís only a movie. Hollywood likes its heroes to be heroic one at a time Ė and not too religious or conservative.

Key to Symbols