Sunday, April 14, 2013

42 Review - 3½ Stars

“42” reminds a new generation of major league baseball star Jackie Robinson’s stirring story—the athlete who opened sports big leagues to blacks when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1947 season.  Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson with quiet dignity, an athlete gifted enough to play with the best and strong enough to withstand the racial taunts and prejudice of post War America.   “42”  really captures the feel of the late 1940’s, and that includes the almost casual racism of those times.  The stylish clothes and classic cars clash with the painful attitudes of those times.   Harrison Ford plays Brooklyn Dodger manager Branch Rickey, who makes the decision to recruit Robinson to broaden the audience for baseball.  In other words he does it for the money, and also he says to make amends for moments in his past.  Ford adds both a voice and comic relief.   The script puts a lot of this story into Ford’s speeches, particularly when he challenges Robinson to have the guts NOT to fight back.  “42” includes some of the most painful scenes of racial prejudice shown of late.  The team gets turned away from hotels, asked not to play in Birmingham, Alabama.  Robinson and his wife lose their seats on an airplane because she uses a white’s only bathroom.  Many of these slights take place in Florida and the South, but the worst occurs on the field in Philadelphia, when the Phillies Manager does his best to bait Robinson with a string of racial slurs both ugly and painful to watch.  As “42” tells it, this incident brings Robinson and his team together and wins over the public as well.  And remember, this happened in real life, not just in a nostalgic movie.  We don’t quite get a feel for Robinson the man other than he held his temper and kept his dignity and played ball better than anybody else.  Maybe that’s the point.  At any rate,  “42” tells a worthwhile story with truth and humor, nostalgia and honesty.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Stirring true sports drama.  Is it entertaining?  Compelling.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Take me out to this ballgame.