Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford | PG-13 |
When Jackie Robinson first swung a bat for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, there was no Voting Rights Act or Brown v. Board of Education decision. Martin Luther King Jr. was still in college, and only her loved ones knew who Rosa Parks was. Robinson was on a team, but he was out there on his own as he broke baseball’s color barrier. So if 42 wants to shine up his halo in a hero-worshipping biopic, I say hallelujah and pass me the Windex. But did this labor of love have to seem so labored?
Even if the tone of 42 feels like a History Channel special, there’s no arguing the power of the story and the performances. Ford is great fun gnawing on the scenery as Branch Rickey, the bushy-browed, gravel-voiced Dodgers president who signs Jackie, played by the excellent Boseman. Rickey warns the former Negro Leagues star that he can’t unleash his temper, even when provoked. No—make that ferociously provoked, as Robinson is by countless bigots, notably Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Ben Tudyk). He insults the player in language so blisteringly foul, you may question whether to take your kids.
I say take them. The film provides plenty of teachable moments: from the painful to the triumphant, lessons too many of us have forgotten or perhaps never knew. And if the Robinson adoration begins to feel like a bit much, that’s okay. Some things need to be glorified.