Jackie Robinson Biopic "42" Hits Theaters Friday To Mostly Positive Reviews
Legendary Pictures' "42," a biopic of Baseball HOFer Jackie Robinson, hits theaters nationwide on Friday. The film was directed by Brian Helgeland, produced by Thomas Tull and stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Dodgers President & GM Branch Rickey. It is currently trending at 73% approval at RottenTomatoes.com (THE DAILY). SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote the movie "passes on the temptation to further buff the mythology and polish the bronze statue that represents Robinson in so many minds nearly 70 years after he integrated the national pastime." It "portrays him, instead, as a person -- an exemplary one, to be sure, but one who did exemplary things within the context of living the joys and pains of a normal human being." The film "smartly restricts itself to the 1947 season and the handful of years leading up to it." Helgeland said that much of the action and dialogue "came straight from original sources," such as Robinson's widow, Rachel, and the "numerous autobiographies by those directly involved" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/9). On Long Island, Neil Best wrote Helgeland "did what he could do to balance reality and drama." Helgeland: "The last thing I wanted to do was make a kind of by-the-numbers, sappy sports movie, but early on I thought we should not forget what's great about the movies." The film "does have its sappy moments," and "presents an uncomplicated picture of a complex man." It helped that Rachel Robinson "worked closely with the filmmakers and has endorsed the finished product" (NEWSDAY, 4/11).
MAKE ROOM ON THE ALL-STAR ROSTER: In N.Y., Joe Neumaier gives the film five out of five stars and writes it is a "moving, all-around terrific telling of Jackie Robinson's first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers." Neumaier: "It's a sports film nonsports fans can love; it's a family film that never preaches; it's a biopic that also takes in the world and people around its subject. There are scenes that soar and challenge -- and a half-dozen that will make tears well up -- but the simple ones resonate, too" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/12). In San Jose, Charlie McCollum wrote under the header, "'42' Scores A Winning Run." The movie is an "entertaining bit of filmmaking that admirably achieves its goal of capturing Robinson's heroic struggle against the racism of the national pastime" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/11). In Toronto, Bruce DeMara wrote the movie is "well-paced and often riveting, and manages to inspire while remaining true to the sport and to the player who changed it and all of professional sport forever" (TORONTO STAR, 4/11). In Boston, James Verniere gave the movie a grade of "A-" and wrote it "takes its place among the best films ever made about baseball, as well as the best films on the subject of racism in America." The movie "hits it out of the park" emotionally, and if the film is "occasionally bogged down by sentiment, it is honorably earned" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/11). In Tulsa, Michael Smith writes the movie is a "solid double off the warning-track wall as a baseball movie." It is "gorgeous to look at like 'The Natural'" (TULSA WORLD, 4/12). SI's Kostya Kennedy writes the film "gets it strength in large part through its focus -- essentially 18 months in the life of Robinson, the Dodgers and baseball." Boseman is the "best part of this new film, infusing his Robinson with a restrained intensity." The movie "successfully straddles the line between sticking to the facts and taking calculated liberties" (SI, 4/15 issue). In L.A., Kenneth Turan writes the film is "so on-the-nose, it practically could have been made in 1947" (L.A. TIMES, 4/12). MLB.com's Tom Singer wrote under the header, "'42' Does Justice To An American Hero" (MLB.com, 4/11).
MANAGES TO WIN DESPITE PREDICTABILITY: In Ft. Worth, Cary Darling writes for all of the movie's "feel-good sports-movie predictability," it is "surprisingly effective and even, at a couple points, moving" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/12). In Buffalo, Jeff Simon wrote "42" is a "great movie for all its outrageous sentimentality and utterly shameless hokum -- none of which was avoidable" (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/11). SPORTS ON EARTH's Jon Weisman wrote it is a "winning movie, which is a relief, though in many ways it remains a victory painted in broad brushstrokes" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/10). In Miami, Connie Ogle writes the script is "so stale it might have been unearthed from an ancient box of Cracker Jacks." However, the movie "persists in entertaining you, even when you’re cringing, because the real story is so compelling" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/12). In Dallas, Chris Vognar writes it "escapes the trappings of sheer hero worship largely thanks to Boseman." Vognar: "I just wish '42' didn't telegraph so many of its moves" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/12). POSTMEDIA NEWS' Jay Stone gives the film three stars out of five, and writes the film "comes with a smooth burnished period look, and it tells a smooth and burnished story." It "doesn't tell us much new, but what it does tell us is worth remembering" (POSTMEDIA NEWS, 4/12). The L.A. TIMES' Turan writes viewers "can't help getting caught up in this story, even as you are wishing the telling was sharper than it is" (L.A. TIMES, 4/12). The AP's David Germain gave the film a grade of "B-," and wrote the movie is a "class act itself, though not always an engaging act." It "hits every button you expect very ably," but is "not the jolt of energy and entertainment we wish it could be" (AP, 4/11). QMI AGENCY's Liz Braun wrote the fact "42" is "just an average sort of movie doesn't detract from the power of Robinson's story" (QMI AGENCY, 4/11).
LEAVES SOMETHING TO BE DESIRED: USA TODAY's Claudia Puig writes under the header, "A Bush-League Take On Hall-Of-Fame History." Boseman is "terrific" as Robinson, but by "focusing on Robinson's first season in 1947, the film feels incomplete, despite a few powerful scenes on the diamond" (USA TODAY, 4/12). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Todd McCarthy wrote the film is "pretty when it should be gritty and grandiosely noble instead of just telling it like it was." The movie "needlessly trumps up but still can't entirely spoil one of the great American 20th century true-life stories" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/9). In N.Y., A.O. Scott writes "42" is "blunt, simple and sentimental, using time-tested methods to teach a clear and rousing lesson." Helgeland has "honorably sacrificed the chance to make a great movie in the interest of making one that is accessible and inspiring." Scott: "Though not accurate in every particular, the movie mostly succeeds in respecting the facts of history and the personality of its hero, and in reminding audiences why he mattered" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/12). In Las Vegas, Christopher Lawrence writes under the header, "'42' Should Have Been A Home Run But Comes Up Short" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 4/12). The GLOBE & MAIL's Rick Groen writes under the header, "42 Touches All The Bases But Fails To Score" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/12). In Salt Lake City, Sean Means writes the movie is "hampered by Ford's scenery-chewing portrayal of Rickey, and a sentimentality toward old-time baseball that makes 'Field of Dreams' look like a documentary" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 4/12).
Robinson biopic "42" received mixed reviews
DEPICTING RACISM IN A REAL WAY: In Akron, Rich Heldenfels wrote although the movie has its "dramatic embroideries, many of the incidents are historically accurate or close to it, including the pivotal scenes in the movie where the Dodgers played a Philadelphia Phillies team whose manager, Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), encouraged players and engaged in some of the worst racial taunts Robinson heard" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 4/11). In San Diego, John Maffei notes the "N-word was used at least 65 times" in the scene when the Dodgers play the Phillies. Maffei: "Was it offensive? Did it make you squirm in your seat? Sure. Was it realistic for the time? You bet" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/12). AMERICAN WAY's Jan Hubbard wrote some of the scenes depicting the racism of the time are "stunning; others are nothing less than brutal." Ford and Boseman are "superb in re-creating the meeting when Ford, as Rickey, explains the abuse that Boseman, as Robinson, surely will receive" (AMERICAN WAY, 4/'13 issue). In Detroit, Tom Long writes this is a movie about a "point in history when dumb prejudice was dealt a blow that would eventually change the human mind and bolster the human spirit" (DETROIT NEWS, 4/12). EW's Gleiberman gives the movie a "B+" and writes in "one vital way, the movie feels very contemporary." The movie highlights the "degree of racial antagonism" Robinson went through, and "makes that struggle look every bit as brutal and scary as it was" (ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, 4/19 issue). In N.Y., Lou Lumenick wrote the film "doesn't pull any punches in depicting the ugly racism that Jackie Robinson faced on a daily basis." Helgeland "hews to the facts in a manner practically unheard of in baseball movies." The film "may not be a home run, but it's certainly a solid three-base hit as worthy family entertainment" (NYPOST.com, 4/11). GRANTLAND's Wesley Morris wrote "42" is a "Hollywood movie about American racism in which the objects of that racism must summon their most noble selves." All the "changing here happens to the players and the management of the Dodgers organization." Helgeland "skillfully writes around the problem of how white racism affects non-racist whites." And he is a "smart, sensitive-enough writer to make this an interesting, worthy emotional pursuit" (GRANTLAND.com, 4/11).
PROBLEM WITH THE PRODUCTION: VARIETY's Scott Foundas wrote the movie's imagery, shot by cinematographer Don Burgess, has the "overly lit, diffuse halo effect that seemed to attend [actor Robert] Redford every time he stepped up to plate in 'The Natural,' while the entire movie bears the too-new look of certain period films, with every freshly pressed costume and vintage automobile gleaming like it just came off the assembly line." A movie about Robinson "isn't obliged to be dark or edgy, but for all of '42’s' self-conscious monument building, the cumulative effect is to render its subject markedly smaller and more ordinary than he actually was" (VARIETY.com, 4/10).