Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, and Lucas Black
Synopsis: Chadwick Boseman stars as the man who reintegrated Major League Baseball after 60 years of segregation, Baseball Hall of Famer, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. Brian Hegleland wrote the screenplay and directed “42” which is Hegleland’s sixth film and greatest accomplishment to this point in his career in my opinion. Based on Robinson’s life, the film picks up when Jackie Robinson is playing baseball in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs when he is offered an opportunity to sign a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers by Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford. Rickey’s pursuit of winning, making money and doing what is right, motivates him to provide an opportunity to Jackie Robinson as a player who can help him and the Dodgers win the pennant. However, this is Major League Baseball in the 1940’s during the Jim Crow era!
Review: Brian Hegleland did a great job of giving us a baseball movie that isn’t a baseball movie; but it is a movie about a baseball player breaking the color barrier in Major League baseball. Does that make sense? I don’t know, but I do know that this is an enjoyable movie for many reasons, and one of them is Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. Mr. Boseman was cast well for this part and is a believable, #42. It would be tough to find an actor who bears this close of a resemblance and who can convince you that you’re watching Jackie as he struggles to live his dream of playing baseball; Boseman accomplishes this. Outside of an appearance on the Fox TV sci-fi classic series, Fringe; this is basically my introduction to his true acting abilities, and I hope he continues to find work in Hollywood.
It is 1945, the Brooklyn Dodgers are trying to get over the hump and win a National League pennant but the St. Louis Cardinals are standing in their way, and they are the class of the National League. The Dodger’s president, Branch Rickey, comes up with the idea to sign a “negro” to play baseball for the Dodgers despite the objections of his colleagues, baseball and many in society. Rickey moves forward as you know, and Jackie eventually joins the Dodgers and teammates, “Pee Wee” Reese (Lucas Black) and Eddie Stanky (Jesse Luken) with managers, Lou Deroucher (Christopher Meloni) and Burt Shotton (Max Gail) as they fight for the National League pennant, change baseball and change America. Jackie’s not alone…This is the Jackie Robinson story, but it isn’t much of a story without his heart and Queen, Rachel Robinson (Nicole Beharie).
42, is a feel good story because it is a love story! It is an action film. It is a sports film. It is an American historical film, in a classic dramatic presentation with perfectly placed humorous lines performed quite well by Harrison Ford. Ford, puts out great effort as Branch Rickey by the way. I must admit that I didn’t recognize him at first, but after a line or two…that’s Harrison Ford! Christopher Meloni (Oz and Law and Order:SVU), is very memorable as Leo Deroucher. Alan Tudyk was very convincing as Ben Chapman, Philadelphia manager in 1947. Overall, the acting is good all around, and even though it is a difficult history to digest, Robinson’s passion and the plight of Blacks in 1940’s America, Hegleland did a wonderful job of giving us a glimpse in to that history without making it an overwhelming and face smacking message film that acts as an indictment on American history and society. In addition, Hegleland could have given us a true American movie by showing numerous racially charged, violent and/or shocking scenes to drive home the sign of the times, but he didn’t. He gave us enough! Enough see why Jackie Robinson is an American hero!
There were a few things I didn’t enjoy about the movie and I wish could’ve been different. There were some obvious historical errors in relation to the hats and uniforms. For example, the classic Brooklyn “B” on the caps, were embroidered, but in the film so that it would “pop” the on screen, the “B” was made from felt. I doubt many would even notice this unless they are baseball geeks. The jury is out on me… Also, it would have been nice to see Satchel Paige, Double-Duty Radcliffe, and Hilton Smith who were on that 1945 Kansas City Monarchs team with Jackie Robinson, identified to tie in the talent in the Negro Leagues and on that team. This would have been a plus in my book. Now this one is selfish. The movie is 128 minutes in length, and I could have sat for another 128 minutes. I felt like there was more that we could have seen, and more that we needed to see! Is it Oscar nomination worthy for best picture? Yes. Will it win? No, however, it is a good movie and Jackie Robinson was great!