The historical drama, the meditation on race relations, and the inspirational sports story: separately they’re all crowd-pleasing film genres that tend to do well at the box office and earn plenty of recognition during awards season. But put them all together and you get some kind of unstoppable super movie. Or, at least, that’s probably what writer/director Brian Helgeland was hoping when he made 42, a biopic of baseball player Jackie Robinson.
For anyone out there whose nerdom doesn’t travel over into the sports world, Robinson was the first black player to cross the color line and play in Major League Baseball during the modern era. Which, you might imagine, was something that a number of tobacco-spitting ballplayers and drunken fans in the stands didn’t take kindly to back in the late 1940s. 42 seems to focus on the struggle of going somewhere you’re not wanted, so that you might pave the way toward opportunity for those who come after you; a noble goal that’s ripe with dramatic potential.
Don’t think that 42 has nothing to offer other than the usual tear-jerker nonsense though. In addition to having a promising young actor in Chadwick Boseman playing Robinson, it also has Harrison Ford playing a gruff old man, Christopher Meloni bringing his usual awesomeness as the coach, and Alan Tudyk being racist. Nothing with Alan Tudyk could be bad.
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