The new film 42, a biopic about baseball legend Jackie Robinson, has enough crowd-pleasing fun to entertain sports fans and history buffs alike — as long as you don't mind your sports movies with extra cheese. Starting in 1943, the movie follows Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) as he sets out to recruit the league's first African-American player for his team. His search leads him to Jackie (Chadwick Boseman), a hot-tempered talent from the African-American league. The gruff Branch mentors Jackie from Spring training to opening day with the Dodgers, supporting him as he survives the racism he encounters from the public and his own teammates. If 42 has piqued your interest, then here are four reasons I think you might like the movie — and two reasons you may not.
- Jackie Robinson's story is engaging. Jackie gets on Branch's radar just as his personal life picks up steam. He marries his sweetheart (Nicole Beharie) and has a baby. Balancing these developments with his baseball career not only makes him more well-rounded as a character, but also makes for a more interesting story.
- Newcomer Chadwick Boseman is one to watch. This is Boseman's first starring role in a major film, and he gives a strong performance as Jackie, portraying just the right amount of smoldering anger below the surface. He carries scenes with the swagger of a seasoned pro, and while his bulky arms might attract your eye, it's his acting skills that keep you fixated.
- It's cool to see (and hear) all the '40s baseball stuff. Re-created stadiums and classic uniforms make the time period a character in itself. One of the most charming small touches is John C. McGinley's old-time radio announcer voice.
- Harrison Ford fans will love it. Do you love Harrison Ford playing a grumpy old man? Then you'll love him here as he huffs around his office puffing on cigars and plays the wise old man with obvious amusement. Branch is a quirkier character than Ford has played lately, which makes him all the more fun to watch.
And if you want to find out the drawbacks of 42, then just read more.
- It's so schmaltzy. From the grandiose score to the shamelessly emotional moments, 42 is overly sentimental. Director Brian Helgeland lays it on thick, periodically showing a young boy who idolizes Jackie. At one point the kid even leans down and puts his ear on the train track to hear as Jackie's train pulls away. I mean, really?
- The pace is confusing. It's not very clear why some games are highlighted while others are skipped and then it grazes over months of the season. The ending is also really abrupt; I didn't even realize the climactic final game was "the big finish" until a few seconds before the credits started rolling.