Take Me Out to the Ballgame – A review of 42

Chadwick Boseman plays the legendary Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford stars as the equally legendary Branch Rickey in the uplifting and spirited baseball pic 42
Chadwick Boseman plays the legendary Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford stars as the equally legendary Branch Rickey in the uplifting and spirited baseball pic 42

Title: 42

Production Company: Warner Brothers

Run Time: 128 minutes

Rated: PG-13

Director: Brian Helgeland

Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Behari, Christopher Meloni, Alan Tudyk, Andre Holland

5 stars for 42

Summary: Brian Helgeland delivers again with an inspiring look at the start of desegregation in baseball and the birth of a legend. Harrison Ford shines as his newfound curmudgeonly persona chalks up another victorious notch.

It’s fitting that this film should open as ball clubs all over the country prepare for opening day of the 2013 baseball season. Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) took the career chance of a lifetime and changed the face of the game forever.

In selecting Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to break the color barrier, Rickey started the game down a path that few would have dared or desired the game to go in 1947. But also, a star (and a hero for many) was born and chose to shine rather than swelter in the racial heat that permeated throughout that tumultuous season.

In the 1940’s, baseball wasn’t plagued with stories of drug misuse and abuse. But the scandals were there all the same. And in the movie, we see the effect that some scandals had on the teams and the players, especially if the bad news could be laid at the feet of the team that chose to embrace, rather than reject a controversial field choice.

Boseman manages to capture the essence and spirit of the man accustomed to fighting for his rights, but who is forced to remember and consider every choice he makes and its potential effect on his team and his teammates, many of whom share the same prejudices as his rivals.

But with Rickey’s firm hand to guide him, he manages to overcome the onslaught and prove that he belongs right where he is, not only to win ballgames, but make a brave statement about who should and shouldn’t be playing the game.

Director Brian Helgeland is no stranger to feel good underdog movies. He previously helmed the jousting epic, A Knight’s Tale, which helped springboard Heath Ledger’s career. As a writer, he penned the screenplay for the movie L.A. Confidential, for which he won an Academy Award.

Here, he has not only developed a great story from history, but has cast a litany of perfect cast members to bring the story to life. Boseman and Ford bring just the right chemistry to the table that you can’t help rooting for the pair to succeed with this social experiment.

Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU) co-stars as Leo Durocher, the controversial manager of the Dodgers whose suspension in 1947 causes a rift in the ranks that nearly causes the team to implode. Nicole Beharie positively glows as Robinson’s doting wife Rae. And Alan Tudyk revitalizes his tasteless character as a racist rival ballclub manager who severely tests Robinson’s and his team’s collective patience.

But while the film may wallow in the melodramatic (as some critics and baseball aficionados may be quick to point out), it shines as both a character study and a period piece that reflects why baseball is truly as great a game as it is and why it was destined to break down walls and open up doors to people of color in what, up to then, was solely a monochrome game.

And let’s face it – the movies are still cheaper than a real baseball game. You can take me out to THIS ballgame anytime. I give 42 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.

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