Baseball movies will never get old in my book. You could have a less than average screenplay about a baseball film and it would still be enjoyable. I grew up around baseball fanatics who grinded America’s favorite pastime into my brain whether I liked it or not. America’s game is special, powerful and an all-around feel-good sport. With the opening week of Major League Baseball here, it feels more appropriate than ever to release a film about the late and great Jackie Robinson.
42 tells the story of two great men of baseball: Jackie Robinson (played by newcomer Chadwick Boseman) and Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford). In 1946, Rickey signed Robinson on to the team, breaking the infamous color barrier in the game of baseball. The film follows Robinson’s rookie year and his struggle to overcome the judgment of his critics and how he and Rickey created the path for others to follow.
Harrison Ford, in his first role as a non-fictional character, completes 42 and makes the film a memorable one playing the fiercely devoted Dodgers General Manager. Rickey was a man who knew how to put someone in his place, yet had a heart of gold and Ford plays him triumphantly. It’s vital that the screenplay allowed Rickey appropriate screen time, since there might not have been a #42 if it weren’t for this man. His demand to change the game of baseball is showed beautifully throughout the film and Ford commands a screen presence like no other.
Chadwick Boseman, in his first starring role, is fantastic as Robinson. Boseman is a fairly new actor to the big screen world and he is able to give Robinson a multi-dimensional character that is easy (and fun) to root for. There is one scene in particular, that just broke my heart. It happens after the Phillies coach (Alan Tudyk) screams racial slurs at Robinson while he is at bat. After striking out, Robinson goes behind the dugout and his emotions get the best of him. It’s truly one of the best scenes in the movie.
I will say, and this is super picky, but the Jay-Z song that was played in the trailer (“Brooklyn We Go Hard”) was not in the movie. I would’ve liked to hear that song at the start of the credits for some laughs and giggles since the song pays homage to Robinson. Jay-Z gives a shout out to the baseball player and Branch Ricky saying, “Ah man, I’m Jackie Robinson/cept when I run the base, I dodge the pen/Lucky me, Luckily they didn’t get me/Now when I bring the Nets I’m the black Branch Ricky/From Brooklyn corners, burnin branches of sticky.” Although the film takes place in the late 40s, the song blends with the story and to be honest, a Jay-Z beat makes anything better.
42 may not be up there with baseball classics like The Sandlot, Bull Durham or The Natural, but baseball and fans will find it a little gem in this year’s films.