Saturday, May 4, 2013

42 [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

I love sports and while baseball isn't high up on my list of favorites, playoff baseball is always fun to watch. Baseball movies as of late, like Moneyball and Trouble With The Curve, are pretty good movies. Which gave me the hope that 42 would at least be as good as the latter. Jackie Robinson is one of the most prolific players to ever compete in any sport. He broke down racial barriers in an exclusive sport and changed how things worked within, at the very least Major League Baseball. This movie is about how a sport was changed, now if only players would quit doping up, and maybe the sport can reclaim some of it's former glory.

42 is a biopic and follows the story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) being recruited to, and playing for, the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson is traveling with his team as they stop to get gas on the team bus. Robinson asks to go use the restroom, to which the attendant denies. Robinson threatens to take their business elsewhere, and the attendant lets him use the restroom. Afterward, a scout from the Brooklyn Dodgers approaches him and sends him to Brooklyn to speak with Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford). Rickey offers Robinson a $600 a month, with a $3500 signing bonus, contract to play with the Dodgers on the condition he keeps his anger under control. After the meeting Robinson calls his girlfriend, Rachel Isum (Nicole Beharie), and proposes to her, to which she says yes. Robinson already has to deal with being a black man, even in the minor league on the Montreal Royals. Also, because a white man is playing second base, Robinson is forced to learn how to play at first instead. Through racial trials, such as heckling and violence, and being denied residence at hotels, Jackie Robinson broke through barriers and stereotypes when he became a Brooklyn Dodger.

I liked this movie. Let me rephrase that, I like this movie when Chadwick Boseman is on the screen. But we're not gonna start with my likes here, we're gonna start with what I didn't like. There was a fair amount of bad in this. We'll start with Branch Rickey, again let me rephrase that. We'll start with the portrayal of Branch Rickey by Harrison Ford. It started out fine, I figured that was just how he talked, or at the very least it was how a lot of owners talked back in those days. Now don't misunderstand me, I don't mind if a movie drops the taboo "n-word", especially if a movie is set in a racially charged era. It was nothing to do with content, but with delivery. After about the third scene with Rickey in it you get tired of the accent. You get tired of his mannerisms. You get tired of Harrison Ford doing whatever's he doing to portray Branch Rickey. Maybe it was overacting, or maybe it was that Harrsion was told to do it that way. Whatever the reason, it was quite annoying to me throughout. The other big thing about this is that scenes not directly involving Chadwick Boesman as Jackie Robinson were pretty bland. Now thank goodness this was a Jackie Robinson movie of this could've gotten way out of hand. There were a few scenes where it soley revolved around Rickey and other GMs or Rickey and his managers, and they were so boring to me. It's not just limited to Rickey scenes. Even the scenes with Jackie's wife, Rachel, I just didn't seem to care about. There's a definite focus on Robinson, and while I understand he can't be the only person on screen, at least make me care about the others when they are.

I loved the overall story of this. While I don't agree this is a racially dominated society anymore, well at least not at the moment, I do appreciate what Robinson had to go through playing for the Dodgers. Chadwick Boseman did a fantastic job in his first major role, especially such a high profile one. You got the feeling that he really became Jackie Robinson. You felt the highs and lows that he felt. You could feel the emotion pouring out form his performance. He was truly the lead in this movie and made every scene that involved him. From playing on the field, to locker-room interaction and life between games, Boseman personifies Robinson. The story is written very well too, whenever you watch a biopic you want detail. From the little things like having an announcer giving play by plays during the game scenes, to managers setting line up and and working with other players. It all flows so well. When you watch you'll can catch the bigger things like John C. McGinley announcing games, and the smaller things like coaches, well coaching. The other half of this is the story itself. Following Jackie's life both on and off the field from signing to acceptance was a great thing to watch over the course of the movie. The writing was done well, but like I said above, some of the performances could have been handled much better. Finally I'll touch in the baseball scenes themselves. I love the old style of the stadiums. I love the crack of the bat and the olden style uniforms. Everything about the games themselves added a huge air of authenticity. This movie is full of great moments, scenes and historical significance. Everything from the portrayal of Robinson and the scenes full of periodical racism, to baseball mangers behind the scenes and general managers negotiations. Everything is top notch and provides a great looking into the way things worked in the 40s.

42 is a great biopic, but it's execution could have been done a lot better. The story is top notch and has great source material. Chadwick Boseman is phenomenal as Jackie Robinson, and despite this movie's flaws that should not be overlooked. Harrison Ford, in this, to me is annoying, but maybe you'll like what he did with Branch Rickey. If you love baseball you're gonna love this biopic. It has everything from game play to behind the scenes interactions. If you're not a baseball fan you'll still be able to appreciate all that Jackie Robinson went through to break down racial barriers. While 42 has its problems, it's still well worth a watch, and I really do look forward to seeing Chadwick Boseman in other films.


  1. The movie does feel "by-the-books" in a couple of scenes, but it's still an enjoyable movie that’s worth a watch. Good review Matt.

  2. Yeah pretty standard stuff. But a majorly good performance and a great story make this more than worthwhile.