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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

42 | Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
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42 | Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni | Review

Major League Baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s challenges and triumphs during his 1946/47 rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers are explored in the film 42, which provides glimpses into the life of the man who broke baseball’s color barrier.

Enduring blatant racism, verbal abuse, threats of physical violence (not to mention physical barriers, like segregated rest rooms and hotels) Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) had to put forth a mighty effort not to be broken himself.

A standout player in the Negro League, Robinson, who had served in WWII and played baseball for UCLA, is selected by Dodgers’ General Manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to initially trained with a minor league Montreal affiliate prior to his history-making contract with the Dodgers under legendary manager Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni, who adds his own very colorful personality to the mix).  Covering the historic event is African-American sportswriter Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) himself a pioneer in the journalistic field.

Already a source of inspiration and pride to African Americans, Robinson gradually widens the narrow-minded baseball field with undeniable talent and remarkable forbearance in the face of race-baiting fans, coaches, managers and fellow teammates.  

Reactions to Robinson’s presence in the league range from vicious intolerance – he’s intentionally struck in the head with one pitch, denied hotel accommodations, and harassed by the manager of the Phillies in one wince-inducing scene - to fearful, and finally, to grudging acceptance and respect.

Boseman does a fine job as the man who wears the 42 jersey, his face reflecting alternating moments of pain and pride.  Ford’s performance resonates with integrity and idealistic mission.  Meloni’s Durocher is portrayed with a straight-shooting, rascally determination.  Holland is quietly effective as Wendell Smith, who fights a parallel battle for respect along with Robinson.

Nicole Beharie, Jon Bernthal, John C, McGinley, Alan Tudyk and Lucas Black provide Boseman, Ford, and Meloni with a superb ensemble of supporting performances.

Writer/Director Brian Helgeland (The Order, A Knight’s Tale) lenses a story full of inspiration but easy on the schmaltz.  There are feel-good moments that don’t require the music to swell, but it will nonetheless.  That can be forgiven much more quickly than the reality of Robinson’s initial treatment at the hands of fellow Americans.  The post-war period is captured in all of its prosperous, intolerant revelry, its knee-jerk biases and nearly universal fear of integration.

Jackie Robinson did a number on the status quo.  And that number is 42.

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