Monday, April 15, 2013
You can feel yourself getting dumber with each passing minute of "42," the hagiographic new biopic on Jackie Robinson, with Chadwick Boseman as the pioneering infielder and Harrison Ford as ahead-of-his-time Dodgers GM Branch Rickey. (If nothing else, the movie draws a sharp contrast between the Dodgers' proud history and the ignominious past of several other MLB franchises.) Every conflict in the movie is pure black and white; the filmmakers believe that even a hint of nuance or shading would be too taxing for the intended audience. This may please those who come to hero worship (Robinson's widow has given "42" her seal of approval), but it renders the film dramatically inert.
We're left with a very bloated two hours and ten minutes of evil racists, well-meaning whites, and black boys looking for a hero. The script consists mostly of speeches; it's the kind of dialogue you'd see parodied in an educational film on "The Simpsons" (though it actually serves Ford's limited talents nicely; he comes off about as well as he can). The love story has absolutely nothing to offer an audience. By hammering home their simplistic points and setting every other scene to swelling orchestral crescendos, director Brian Helgeland and his team have done the amazing Jackie Robinson a real disservice: they've made him a crashing bore.