Directed By: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni, Jud Tylor, Alan Tudyk, Lucas Black, Jon Bernthal, and Nicole Beharie

Jackie Robinson is one of the most iconic athletes of the 20th century.  It's 2013.  It's been 66 years since Robinson began his historic rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and we're just getting our first feature film in my lifetime about his incredible journey.  Well, it's about damn time.  Sure, we had the film The Jackie Robinson Story starring the man, the myth, and the legend himself.  However, there hasn’t been a Robinson biopic on the big screen through the lens of history.  The Jackie Robinson Story was made in 1950 and doesn’t have the historical perspective that can only come with time.  This weekend's 42, however, does.

Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) is looking to break the color line and hire the first black player in Major League Baseball.  Recognizing the tempest he's about to bring down on the Dodgers, he looks for a player with a career ahead of him, one who's got the guts not to fight back against the racists who will put every obstacle in his way.  That player is Jack Robinson.  Currently playing in the Negro League for the Kansas City Monarchs as a second baseman, Robinson embraces this challenge to break down the racial barriers in America's favorite pastime when Mr. Rickey reaches out to him with an offer to play for the Montreal Royals and eventually the Dodgers.  First, however, he's going to wed his longtime girlfriend Rachel (Nicole Beharie) because he's going to need her more than ever.

While I respect that Robinson's legacy is being brought back to life on the big screen, 42 is a very straightforward film.  It's thoroughly entertaining, but it doesn't do anything to be the great movie that this trailblazer deserves.  With some questionable creative decisions and a mixed bag of performances from our leads, there's a lot to be desired of 42.  Still, there's something special about watching Jackie rub his hands in the sand before he goes up at bat and put the fear of God in pitchers on the field as he steals one base after another.

If I have any gripes with 42, they are that I cannot agree with the way that this movie starts or ends.  The movie opens to Branch Rickey saying that he would like to hire a black player for the Dodgers, and we soon find Robinson playing in the Negro League.  While that's nice, there are better ways to begin this movie with more of a focus on the lead.  There's no mention whatsoever of Robinson's upbringing or what experiences have molded him into the strong black man he is by the time he even meets Mr. Rickey.  The starting point just seems a bit too arbitrary.

My other gripe is with the ending.  I completely understand that the film should chronologically focus on Robinson's rookie year with the Dodgers as that's the year in which he breaks down the most significant racial barriers.  However, I don't agree with closing as soon as the Dodgers win the pennant.  In this case, director Brian Helgeland brings no style or substantive anticlimax to the film.  When the baseball game ends, so does the movie.  Given that Jackie Robinson's career is about more than just baseball, there's more to tell that could have allowed Helgeland to close out the film with a little more meaning.

The relatively unknown Chadwick Boseman delivers a strong performance as the baseball legend.  He brings the right level of ferocity to the film, both on and off the field.  I commend him for tackling such a towering, iconic figure not just in baseball, but in the world.  On the other hand, veteran actor Harrison Ford gives a rather cartoonish performance as Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey.  He's definitely enjoyable, but he doesn't give his character that much depth.  His performance is often a bit too sugary.  I also enjoyed Nicole Beharie's performance as Rachel.  The Shame star is an underrated actress of whom we simply don't get enough.

On the whole, 42 is an entertaining flick that gets everything right on the field.  I definitely enjoyed it.  This movie does nothing but honor the legacy of this iconic baseball player even if it doesn’t quite get everything right.  Given my issues, I'm comfortable giving the film a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few rounds of beer with this one.  It's still a baseball movie.  I couldn't have you drinking anything else on my watch.