“42” could of been a great biopic about one of the most important people to ever put on a Major League Baseball uniform. Unfortunately it falls victim to being overly melodramatic and sentimental. Much like “The Help” from a few years ago, this could of maybe been more effective in the hands of a different director.
But wait a minute, this movie was written and directed by Brian Helgeland! This is the man who was fired from completing the movie “Payback” because he refused to comprise on the hard edged tone of the film. He also wrote the screenplays for great movies like “Mystic River” and “Green Zone”. So what happened here? Studio interference? Why does this movie feel so watered down and light?
The story and the plot follow Jackie Robinson’s early years in Major League Baseball pretty closely. I just imagine that things were a little harsher then what is presented here. There is really only one sequence that really effected me and it involved an opposing coach who relentlessly throws racist insults at Robinson while he bats.
The cast all do what they can with the material. Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson in a performance that seems oddly muted. I imagine Boseman could really knock out the role if it were more raw and fleshed out. Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey, who signs Jackie to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He too could of been good had he not been handed so much hammy dialogue.
“42” does have great production values going for it. The film looks great. The sets, costumes and locations all feel real and authentic. It is like we are seeing through a window in to 1950’s. I just wish a more authentic view of this story was taking place there.