The story of Jackie Robinson is one of inspirational resilience against seemingly insurmountable odds. Robinson faced all that the baseballing world could throw at him, refusals onto the pitch, into washrooms or hotels, along with trouble from fans, officials, his opponents and even his teammates. His steadfast resilience in the face of this turmoil could inspire anyone. The film however is less extraordinary.
‘42’ rounds each base successfully and produces a reverent testament to the achievement of Robinson and Branch Rickey, Brooklyn Dodgers’ chairman. This respectful nature somewhat inhibits this film’s emotional response in comparison with other recent films dealing with racial segregation. ’42’ downplays physical acts of resistance to Robinson, promoting the verbal abuse instead. This comes to a poignant head in the form of Alan Tudyk’s portrayal of Philadelphia Phillies coach Ben Chapman. Chapman racially abuses Robinson throughout the duration of his time at the plate, selling the vehement disgust shown by opponents of Robinson and Rickey’s crusade. Verbal abuse can act as a shocking tool and Tudyk’s character certainly shocks. However, it cannot go as far as physical scenes of resistance as showcased in such recent releases as Lee Daniel’s ‘The Butler’. The need for a respectful, solemn testament to Robinson’s life leaves ‘42’ slightly lacking.
This does not make ‘42’ a poor film, especially impressing in the performance of Chadwick Boseman. Boseman shines as Robinson, standing resolute against all abuse. He performs with tangible emotion and restraint; Boseman certainly is the star of ‘42’. Harrison Ford, as old man Rickey, will not hang his career on this performance. In comparison to Boseman, Ford is uninspiring.
A lot is good in ‘42’: it’s lead (Boseman), its story and its inspiring nature. Yet, it is far from a home run.
‘42’ hits a ★ ★ ★ 1/2
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