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
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.