Thanks to Jackie, white men all around the world can now make excuses for missing their shot at the big-time.
Whenever you see a professional sports team on the television, most of the players are African Americans. Yeah, some whites here and there, but mainly African Americans, but it never, ever used to be like that. However, thankfully, one man had to knock that barrier down and that one man’s name was Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). Without him, we wouldn’t have blacks and whites playing aside each other in such sports as basketball, football, baseball, and so on and so forth, but it was harder than expected. That’s why Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) comes in to make sure that Jackie is above the people who criticize him and not stooping to their racist ways. Cause when in doubt: one must always listen to the guidance of Han Solo. Always.
Jackie Robinson’s story is an amazing and inspiring, but best of all; it’s all true. For so long now, we hear stories of these famous legends that have seemingly changed the world we live in, and yet, we always hear some stories about them whether they be a bit of a scandal or negative in anyway. That’s why it’s so nice and somewhat refreshing to get a story on a person that stayed true to himself on, and off the field. Not saying that Robinson was a saint-like person 24/7, but given what we know about him through books, interviews, and videos; the man was a wonderful that broke down color barriers for us all.
It’s such a wonderful person and story, that it’s honestly a real wonder to myself as to why it’s taken Hollywood so long to jump on this man’s story, and give him the biopic treatment. I mean, there was some B-movie in where he starred as himself, but from what I know so far: no movie has been made about Jackie’s life. That’s where writer/director Brian Helgeland comes and changes that all up. Not like Jackie changed the world of sports, but you see what I mean.
What I liked most about Helgeland’s approach was that the guy focuses on Jackie, his life, and the way he plays baseball, but doesn’t allow it to get too corny to the point of where it’s almost insincere. Most sports movies that have to do with a figure in a certain sport that changed the way it was played or viewed as, usually get their image skewered in a way that makes them look as if they were the second-coming of Christ, with little to no flaws, and an incapability of saying/doing the wrong thing. However, this movie does not paint Jackie as that. From all that we know, the guy was a great person but he had problems coming to terms with the way the world treated him; he was constantly freaking out when people booed the hell out of him for being black; and he never got to share those heartfelt-experiences with his teammates, like they all did with one another. Nope, the guy was sort of a loner and seemed to be really upset by the way the world was looking at him, but he never really let it get to him fully.
That’s why I thought it was great to see this movie not just paint him as a person, but a kind and believable one at that. A lot of reviewers have been getting on this movie for not going any deeper into the psyche of Jackie Robinson and not exploring what really made him human, but I think that’s not the point of this movie. Granted, I would have liked to see some more development of Jackie, his home life with his gal-pal, and his troubled-times on the road, but those are all minor nit-picks in the grander scheme of things. The way that the movie handled Jackie’s story was a respectable one, but also a very honest one in where it shows us what this man had to go through in order to break down those barriers, and in the end: makes you see his legend even more.
So, with all of that said: is it an inspirational movie? Maybe the movie isn’t as inspirational as the true-life story is, but yeah, it still works. You feel for Jackie whenever he gets knocked-down and continues to get back up for more where you see him struggle by not being able to say a lick to anybody around him. For that alone, you really get behind the man but once he starts rackin’ up the points for his team and he really begins to turn on the skills; then it just gets better. After all of this, it becomes not only an entertaining baseball movie that has a great time with all of the hits, the runs, and the steals (in baseball terms at least), but a movie that takes it’s subject seriously and doesn’t feel the need to drop a bunch of gooey-tasting syrup down our throats. Some moments are like, but not all. And for that, I have to give Helgeland a crap-load of kudos for telling the story the way it was meant to be told, and not getting lost in the mix of conventionality. That could have easily happened, too. But thank the movie heavens that it didn’t.
Another smart-decision that Helgeland made as director was by actually casting an unrecognizable person as Jackie Robinson. And an even smarter-decision on his part, was getting a guy that actually pull the roll off perfectly. Chadwick Boseman is the name, ladies and gentleman, and it’s a name you should remember for awhile because he’s so great here, that it’s hard to imagine anybody else playing this role, without anybody in the crowd being able to get past the fact that it’s somebody we all recognize and can put our finger on immediately. Nope, not Boseman and what a find this guy truly was. Not only does he have the skills to make it seem like Jackie was a really nice guy at heart, but also have the chops to show us how much it really did take him to hold-back and not go all nutso on every a-hole around him. Just the look in his eyes would get me, and that’s the sign of a talented-actor at work. Maybe I’m selling him a bit too much here, but for me, I feel as if this guy’s going to get more and more roles as time goes on. And if not, oh well. Then he’ll just have to join the line of “promising, young black actors that never quite made it”. Right behind Rob Brown, of course.
Then, you go right-off the field and into the manager’s office where you find Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, in the type of role that you’d never, ever expect him to play, but he pulls off stunningly. Seriously, I thought that this was going to be one of those roles where an aging-star takes to stretch out his skills, but instead comes off like he’s trying too hard to make it seem like you don’t notice him, when we all do but that’s not this performance at all. If anything, this is probably Ford’s best role in a decade (yes, even better than this), because it finally seems like the guy is having the time of his life for once in awhile. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen Ford actually take a role such as this, and just make it his own, but not without hiding himself underneath the character to where we can’t get past the fact that it’s “Indy in a bunch of make-up and a fat-suit”. Instead, we see Branch Rickey in his duck-like cackle, his huge eyebrows, and his business-like way of negotiating things. His story may seem a bit “dickish” considering his character is all about getting a black player on the team for money, but after awhile, we see more about this person that may surprise you. Not just because this person actually seems to have a heart and soul, but because it’s so surprising to see that Ford can still pull-off dramatic scenes that make you come close to crying. I didn’t shed a tear at all throughout this movie, but I came pretty damn close at one point and that’s all thanks to Ford.
The rest of the cast is pretty damn good too, even if they don’t have as much screen-time as Boseman and Ford. Lucas Black is great as Pee Wee Reese, one of the only Dodgers players that seemed to have a soul; Christopher Meloni seems like a perfect-fit as the strong, but understandable GM, Leo Durocher; John C. McGinley is awesome to see on the big-screen once again playing the Dodgers’ play-by-play commentator Red Barber, nailing every line and wit the man had to offer; and also be on the look-out for a relatively nice supporting performance from Ryan Merriman as Dixie Walker, one of the last players on the Dodgers who couldn’t get used to Jackie’s stay on the team. Name not ringing a bell, okay then, see if you recognize this. Oh, how time flies by.
Consensus: 42 isn’t the definitive-movie about Jackie Robinson’s life on, and off the field, but it’s still supported well by a perfectly-casted group of stars, a script that shows us the harsh realities of the man’s life, while also the bright spots of it as well, and also throw some inspiration at us. Not a home run by any means, but at least a ground rule double.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!