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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

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Film disappoints with poorly executed story

No genre of film is more emotionally manipulative than the sports film. It is almost at the heart of the genre. Almost every sports movie has its fair share of slow-mo shots, soaring music and teary-eyed speeches.

Now, a few truly great films do exist in the genre (Rocky, Raging Bull and The Wrestler to name a few.), but those are also films that broke from the mold and transcended the genres that they were couched in.

You would think that a film about Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB), would truly be something special. It is a truly inspirational story, and one that could, again, make for a truly spectacular movie.

However, instead of relying on the strength of the incredible true story to carry the movie forward, the filmmakers instead relied on the same tired cliches that we’ve seen time and time again.

The film opens laughably, with Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), chomping a cigar and proclaiming in a gruff voice, “I think that a black man should play for the Brooklyn Dodgers.” His colleagues argue, saying that they won’t possibly be able to find a player good enough to transcend the prejudice and vitriol that people will hurl his way. Rickey leans back in his chair, puffs on his cigar and says “We’ll find one. I’m sure he’s out there, right now.”

Cut directly to Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), playing in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs, and doing an inhumanly spectacular job at it. It is a bizarre first ten minutes, and it makes for an annoying introduction to the world. It’s a wonder that these two scenes were not reshot.

It is not too long before the Dodgers catch on to Robinson’s talent and decide that they need him on their team. The scouts find him at a gas station, (don’t ask me how) fighting for his right to use the white-only restroom.

Long story short, after a brief stint with the Minor League Montreal Royals, Robinson is signed onto the Dodgers in 1947.

It’s really difficult to critique a movie like 42. On one hand, No on can deny that the film’s story is incredibly moving, because it is. It’s an amazing story. On the other hand, however, I, as a critic, can’t deny that the movie does not handle the story in a way that moved me.

Boseman’s performance is incredible, especially a late film scene where we see Robinson at his lowest. It is no coincidence that this scene is by far the film’s most powerful. It is an effective blend of great impression and great acting.

Harrison Ford, on the other hand, does a great imitation of Branch Rickey. However, his performance is incredibly one note, and at times downright embarrassing.

My main problem with the film is that it doesn’t feel like the filmmakers had any confidence in the story. With any other sports movie, I can kind of forgive the cliches because, well, the stories of most sports films aren’t that appealing. But this is Jackie Robinson, a man whose story is universally inspirational.

Why the filmmaker’s felt the need to end the film on a long slow-motion tracking shot of Robinson doing a victory run around the diamond while soaring music plays and the crowd cheers him on, is beyond me. It comes off as shockingly insincere.

All in all, 42 is a half-decent effort as a sports movie, but a beyond subpar effort as a Jackie Robinson biopic.

For more reviews, read the April 12 article, Bok shares personal experience in ‘Escape from Slavery’.

42 runs at 128 minutes and is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including language.

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