STARRING: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Chris Meloni, Lucas Black, Ryan Merriman, Alan Tudyk, T.R. Knight, John C. McGinley, Andre Holland, James Pickens Jr., Brett Cullen
DIRECTED BY: Brian Helgeland
If you believe in uplifting sports dramas, you’ll believe in 42. Is it groundbreaking, or the best sports drama ever? Will it live eternally in the pantheon alongside movies like Eight Men Out, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and The Natural? Possibly. Time will tell.
42 is the true life story of Jackie Robinson, the groundbreaking black baseball player who changed the way we play baseball. Not only did he bring his color to the game, but he also brought his own style to the game. He stole more bases his season than any other player. Jackie (Boseman) is plucked from obscurity in the negro leagues by Branch Rickey (Ford). Rickey believes it’s time to desegregate baseball, and he’s picked Jackie as the one to do it. He’s a good player, and more importantly, Jackie understands that fighting off the field isn’t the way to win, being the best player on the field is. Jackie brings along his wife (Beharie) for the ride, and a writer (Holland). Together, they all change the minds of the players on the field, and inspire generations to come.
Boseman is great as Jackie. It’s a great breakthrough performance, and I hope we see a lot more from him. Beharie is solid as his wife, though I could see her being forgotten coming out of this. Alan Tudyk has a showy role as the guy you’re gonna hate, no matter what. The rest of the supporting cast is solid in their roles. And then there’s Harrison Ford…
Just before watching 42, I was watching a trailer of Emperor, and I was thinking to myself how Tommy Lee Jones is basically Tommy Lee Jones in every movie he does. He especially doesn’t try and change his speech patterns. I was annoyed by this idea, then I watched Harrison Ford in 42. Now I’m OK with certain actors not being asked to change their style. Harrison Ford should never change his acting style… ever. He’s so over-the-top, so inexplicably out of place in this drama, it actually causes me to not enjoy the movie as much when he’s on screen. I love Harrison Ford as an actor, but this is probably the worst acting he’s ever done.
Had someone else been in the role, or if Ford had been told to just play the role straight, I might have been able to give 42 an A. It’s a pretty solid film, dragging only a little in the middle. Brian Helgeland could have used a bit more focus. There are times when you don’t know if he’s focusing on the team, or on Jackie’s story. There are scenes in the movie that work better if the movie is like Miracle, where you’re rooting for the whole team to win the season, not just one player to break down barriers. That, coupled with Ford’s acting, makes for a good, but slightly uneven film.
FINAL GRADE: B