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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

42 – Jackie Robinson Breaks Baseball Color Barrier

Boy did I enjoy this film.  It is fun to watch, has some really good feel good moments and introduces a fine actor I haven’t heard of before in Chadwick Boseman who stars as Jackie Robinson, the first baseball player to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier.

 With all that in mind, the film lets itself down.   Yes, this is a good, “feel good” film but it could have been so much better.    

This is a historical film that manages to avoid teaching you anything about the history of the characters involved. The character development is next to nil.    Watch this film and you’ll see what I mean.   Take the star character, Jackie Robinson.  At the end of this film, I knew very little about the man other than his father left him when he was 6 months old, Robinson got married and he played baseball well.    I learned even less about the other characters.

 Harrison Ford makes a surprising and likeable appearance as Branch Ricky, the aging Brooklyn Dodgers owner who takes a big risk by introducing Robinson to the league.  Again, when the movie was over I realized, while I liked the performance by Ford, there was no depth to the character Ricky. The lack of depth reduces Ford’s performance to more a caricature of Ricky (his costume and facial expressions add to this) rather than an actual portrayal of the former Dodger owner.

I could go on with all of the characters but you get the idea. The same complaint would just repeat itself.  The film does put a lot of emphasis on the racism of the times.   This is commendable and I do think it is a topic worth emphasizing but dozens of other films have tackled this topic and do it more effectively because of better character development.  Malcolm X is a great example and plenty of others.

You could state at 127 minutes "42" didn’t allow itself time for character development but there are definitely a few scenes that could have been eliminated.  Most notably the introduction of new Dodgers Manager, Burt Shotton, played by Max Gale (you might recall him from Barney Miller).  The Dodgers need a new manager fast and Branch Ricky spends an entire scene convincing Burt Shotton to come of retirement and coach his team.  Ricky even uses some contrived line like (and I’m paraphrasing here)  “Burt, I need you here. We need a captain and a typhoon is coming.”    All that build up is followed by a wasted team meeting scene where Shotton sounds like the dumbest guy on Earth, then for the most part you never hear from the guy again.

 In the end a decent, feel good flick that very effectively shows the trials and sufferings Robinson had to endure, but nothing else.

Another Review By Me:
A Wild and Murky Ride on the Budapest Subway System

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