Spike Lee tried for many years to get a movie about American sports hero Jackie Robinson, starring Denzel Washington, off the ground. However, he couldn’t make it happen. That’s too bad; I get a feeling that Lee, who made one of the great biopics with Malcolm X, would’ve done something really special.
Instead, we got 42, from director Brian Helgeland (Payback). While it’s really good at times, it gets awfully hokey at other times, and as a result, the film is just OK.
Chadwick Boseman is a great pick to play Robinson, as is Lucas Black to play Pee Wee Reese. Harrison Ford also delivers big-time as Branch Rickey, the man who brought Robinson to the majors. Christopher Meloni leaves the movie too soon as Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher. (Durocher was suspended the year Robinson made his debut.)
Boseman, who looks a lot like Robinson, shines even when the movie doesn’t, and it’s a lot of fun to see Ford do something this different. However, I just can’t buy some of the fictional moments created for this movie, including an all-too-sweet moment between Robinson and Rickey just beyond the dugout stairs. (I am pretty sure that Rickey never put his head on Robinson’s shoulder.)
Also: Robinson went through major hell, and the movie only scratches the surface. A movie that really showed what he went through would have trouble getting a box-office-friendly a PG-13 rating, and wouldn’t offer fake moments of relief. Still, this film offers a decent representation of the sport, so perhaps it’s good that kids can go see this movie and get an idea of what Robinson did for civil rights.
Special Features: The Blu-ray package offers a few looks behind the making of the movie and Robinson’s legacy.