Genre: Drama; Biopic
Running Time: 128mins.
Premise: Details the rookie season of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), baseball's first African American player, as he overcomes racism and adversity to secure himself a place in the history books while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers under the stewardship of cantankerous Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford).
Behind-the-Scenes: Writer/Director Brian Helgeland also wrote L.A. Confidential, Payback, and Man on Fire. With an opening weekend box office take of over $27 million, 42 set a new record for baseball-themed movies.
The Good: Jackie Robinson's life story deserves the big screen treatment, and should be appointment moviegoing for anyone unfamiliar with the man. Helgeland gets most of the major things right, and has crafted a handsomely shot film. The lush period details and cinematography are top notch. Boseman is fantastic as Robinson - it helps that audiences haven't seen much of the actor, which allows him to disappear into the role and truly become Robinson. Ford hasn't been this good on screen in - oh wow - about two decades. He actually gives a real performance here; it's refreshing to see him trying again. It also doesn't hurt that the script gives him the lion's share of the best lines.
The Bad: The movie's depiction of Robinson is almost saintly to a fault. This is a safe and sanitized biopic, scrubbed clean of any controversial elements to appeal to the largest demographic possible. Helgeland seems perfectly content taking a black and white approach to the story, pun intended. There are no shades of gray here. Characters are either progressive and good, or racist and bad. The script has a few lines that are real groaners, and too often tries to sermonize the story rather than tell it. Also, I know the song would have had no place in the period setting, but I missed Jay-Z's "Brooklyn We Go Hard" (used so well in the trailer) on the soundtrack. Not even over the end credits? Talk about a missed opportunity.
Should You See It?: Yes. On the whole, this is a solid, audience-friendly biopic that many will have no trouble embracing. Happy Jackie Robinson day, all.
Rating: *** out of 5 stars.