The funny thing is, I don’t particularly like baseball. But I really do like movies about baseball. Maybe it’s because even if I don’t appreciate the sport in and of itself, I can appreciate that people love it and feel very passionate about it.
42 is one of those baseball movies. It’s also a movie about the first crack being put in segregation for that part of society. It’s a movie that intends to be inspirational and let you leave the theater feeling good, and it makes no bones about that fact. There are a lot of moments in the film where someone who is horrible and racist gets slapped down verbally by someone who isn’t, and you feel a bit like cheering. You’re supposed to.
It’s not a sweeping biography of Jackie Robinson; there’s still a hell of a lot left unsaid about the man. The focus is instead on his year with the Montreal Royals in the minor leagues, and then his rookie year with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and because of that much is left unsaid. Though thankfully, it’s not all baseball. Jackie Robinson gets a life outside the game in this movie, and it’s not all focused on the constant, grinding fight against racism. There are a lot of lovely scenes that sketch (and it is very much just a sketch) his relationship with his wife Rae and the arrival of their first child.
In 42, Jackie Robinson feels more like the legend than the man who became a legend, which is the only complaint I have at all. And considering what a likable legend Chadwick Boseman plays him to be, that’s not really much of a complaint at all. I loved watching him steal bases. But I also feel like the focus of the movie wasn’t really Jackie Robinson’s journey – it was the journey of the white men surrounding him who had to step up to meet him. But then again, Jackie Robinson changed the game; the game didn’t change him, other than perhaps to temper him if the movie is to be believed.
The cast in general is really good, and full of familiar faces. Boseman communicates pain, inner turmoil, and struggles with his temper without needing to say a word. Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman, the horribly racist manager of the Phillies made me cringe in my seat. John McGinley (who I will always know as Dr. Cox from Scrubs) looked convincingly old and sounded entirely different as Red Barber. Christopher Meloni was… well, Christopher Meloni, really, perhaps a bit rougher and more tough-talking than before.
And Harrison Ford? Holy shit Harrison Ford. I actually didn’t realize it was him, until a scene where he yells at Jackie and then I really recognized his voice. They did some excellent makeup on him. And he did a great job, jabbing the air with his cigar and doing the old man wobble with his chin.
The movie’s got its uplifting and triumphant moment (though at times the score is really trying a little too hard) and a lot of fun back and forth. (The pre-shower scene. Just.) There’s a lot to like about it, and it’s fun. If you ask me, much more fun than actually watching baseball, though I know I’m in the minority there.