Film Review: ’42′

Lucas Black and Chadwick Boseman make nice in the Jackie Robinson picture "42." Credit: D. Stevens
Lucas Black and Chadwick Boseman make nice in the Jackie Robinson picture “42.”
Credit: D. Stevens

‘42’
Director: Brian Hegeland
Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford
Rating: PG-13
3 (out of 5) globes

It begins like a parody of an inspirational sports saga: after a cheesy montage catches viewers up with Jim Crow America, grizzled baseball GM Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) peers up from his newspaper and growls that he’d like to bring the first African American to the Majors. Surely the real scene wasn’t this unimaginative, and from there, “42” — the first Jackie Robinson biopic since 1950’s “The Jackie Robinson Story,” which starred Robinson himself — can only go up. Eventually, it does.

The narrative predictably plows through Robinson’s (Chadwick Boseman) ascent from the Negro League to getting the Brooklyn Dodgers into the World Series (where they lost to the Yankees, which is probably why the film stops there). There is a constant stream of silly biopic scenes that turn reality into kitsch — Robinson even crosses home, in mega-slow-mo, to the strains of a “Thus Sprach Zarathustra” soundalike — plus a persistent syrupy score that infuses even the most perfunctory moments with Importance.

But it’s no “Remember the Titans.” This isn’t a mere comforting history lesson of racism overcome, its actions tucked snugly away in the past where they can’t hurt us. Although sometimes comically simplistic, other times it heads right into the thick of it. Boseman’s Robinson is more symbol than character — but then, Robinson, as seen here, was treated less like a human than someone designated to be the anger magnet for a country undergoing violent growing pains.

Robinson remains stoic against perpetual verbal (and sometimes physical) assaults; there are at least as many N-word-drops here as in “Django Unchained,” and is still only PG-13. It’s not because he wants to, but because he’s been tasked by history, or at least by Rickey. He has to suffer the invective of a redneck Phillies manager (Alan Tyduk), who later claims he’s only doing shtick. (He did the same to Hank Greenberg, after all.) Rickey claims such abuse is important on getting people on the side of the abused, thus tricking the populace into wanting progress.

It’s times like these “42” seems savvier than it tends to let on. A stiff production, it’s still enlivened, as it were, by the hilarious stiffness of Ford, who’s only now fully coming into the grouchiness that for the last two decades has often smacked of mere indifference. He soaks up his dialogue with a lower register that makes him sound like Sam Elliott, uttering old-timey patter like “Judas Priest!” and “What in Satan’s fire?” Chewing scenery while barely moving his jaw, he’s the film’s real MVP.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Preachers rail at NYPD at Eric Garner's funeral

Preacher after preacher stepped up to the pulpit at a sweltering Brooklyn church on Wednesday to express fury at the city's police force during the funeral of Eric Garner, who…

Local

Newark schools probed after claims of race discrimination

The U.S. Department of Education said on Wednesday it was investigating complaints that a plan to reorganize public schools in Newark, New Jersey, discriminates against black students.

National

Dogs are capable of feeling jealousy - U.S.…

By Curtis Skinner(Reuters) - Dogs are a man's best friend, and research released on Wednesday says canines want to keep it that way.Dogs are capable…

Local

G train riders brace for five-week shutdown

G train service will be suspended between Brooklyn and Queens between Friday, July 25, and Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Going Out

Where to go drinking on National Tequila Day…

Thursday is just close enough to the end of the week to make you envision yourself already sunning on a beach towel or lounging by…

Going Out

Things to do in NYC this week: July…

Performing arts A 70’s Summer Night Friday, 6:30 p.m. The Green Building 452 Union St., Gowanus $35, 347-529-6473 Party like it’s summer in the 1970s…

Going Out

5 must-try dishes at Edible Manhattan's Good Beer

Rooting out the exotic amid the New York City bar scene is noble quest. But if you’d like to have it all come to you,…

Books

Art imitates life (almost) in David Shapiro's new…

David Shapiro talks about his book, "You're Not Much Use To Anyone."

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

MLB

Brandon McCarthy finds his calling on Twitter

Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy joined Twitter three year ago for the same reason many people do: to get news quickly.

Sports

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running…

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running game a boost

Food

Recharge with a post-workout smoothie from Nicky Hilton

Some people can roll out of bed right as their alarm goes off. And that alarm isn’t set for 20 minutes before they have to…

Education

Colleges are increasingly embracing the concept of gender-neutral…

  Northwestern University recently made headlines after announcing that it would be installing two gender-neutral bathrooms in the university's student center. “These are two gender-open…

Career

How to prepare to interview for your dream…

    Congratulations! You landed a job interview at your dream company! A lot of hard work has gone into determining which companies to apply…

Style

The shirtdress is a summer must-have

  We love throwing on our boyfriend’s shirt and a pair of jeans (no matter how much he grumbles that it’s his turn to wear the…