Movie Review: 42

Ratings for reviews will appear above the fold, while the review itself will appear below the fold to avoid spoilers for anyone that wants to go into it with a blank slate.

Jean-Paul’s rating: 3/5 stars

A mediocre movie about a monumental man.

“42” is a movie about Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play Major League Baseball.  It is a shame that it’s limited to that.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Jackie Robinson was just a black man who happened to be good at baseball at a time when there was someone willing to take the risk of putting a black man in baseball.  Somehow I doubt that’s true.  Jackie Robinson appears to be a unique character.  There’s a story there that goes well beyond baseball.

Another fascinating character is Branch Rickie (Harrison Ford), the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He is the man responsible for bringing Jackie Robinson to the Majors.  Why did he decide to bring Jackie Robinson up when he did?  He explains in the movie about not seeing black or white, but only green, the color of money.  This topic comes up a couple of times in the movie and it’s always about the money.  That is, until Jackie asks Branch why he did it and Branch waxes philosophical about right and wrong.  It’s kind of a movie cop out.  But maybe both are actually true to some extent.

The movie also deftly side steps racism.  Most others probably wouldn’t see that.  There are many scenes of petty racism and at least one scene of agonizingly painful racism.  It is a fine line showing racism in a major motion picture and I guess the writers did a good job at walking that line without taking away from the triumph of the story.  I’m also sure that plenty of people were horrified at the trials that Jackie Robinson had to endure, but it is just the tip of the iceberg of the daily indignities that were suffered by blacks in the United States after Reconstruction.

Because of all of the above, “42” left me a bit empty.  There are stories there just longing to be told but they are left unspoken.  That would be unusual for a movie, but maybe that’s by design.  I know I certainly want to know much more about Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickie and Leo Durosher.  They are fascinating people in a fascinating time.