Access’ Scott “Movie” Mantz weighs in on the new Jackie Robinson film, and says it’s not exactly a home run, but it’s definitely a hit.
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford
Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Brian Helgeland has always been better as a writer than as a director. Try holding up his Oscar-nominated screenplay for “Mystic River” or his Oscar-winning screenplay for “L.A. Confidential” up against middling directorial efforts like “Payback,” “A Knight’s Tale” or “The Order,” and the proof is in the pudding.
As a director, Helgeland moves up to the big leagues with “42,” a lush biopic that tells the story of Jackie Robinson, the baseball legend who broke down racial barriers when he became the first African-American to play for the majors (the Brooklyn Dodgers). But it’s Helgeland’s screenplay that’s stuck in the minors, as it follows a formulaic structure and a simplistic tone that’s earnest to a fault.
Where “42” really knocks it out of the park is with its performances. After making his mark with solid guest appearances on TV shows like “Fringe,” “Justified” and “Castle,” Chadwick Boseman gives a star-making performance as Robinson, infusing him with more depth of character than what the screenplay called for. The same can be said about Nicole Beharie, who plays Robinson’s strong and supportive wife Rachel.
Harrison Ford also shines as Branch Rickey, the Dodgers team executive who took Robinson under his wing. What really make’s Ford’s performance special is how un-Ford-like it is.
After a super-successful career that’s been defined by playing different variations of the same Ford-style hero, Harrison gives an appealing and genuine performance as a strong-willed man who had as much to lose as Robinson.
So while opposition and bigotry that both Robinson and Rickey faced is depicted without much depth here, the inspiring true story and the spectacular performances are what really make “42” the rousing crowd pleaser it is. Not exactly a home run, but it’s definitely a hit.
Verdict: SEE IT!
-- Scott Mantz