And that’s fine with me. 42 — the number Robinson wore on his uniform — tells an important story that, almost inconceivably, has eluded big-screen treatment since Robinson himself starred in 1950’s The Jackie Robinson Story.
Relative unknown Chadwick Boseman (TV’s Persons Unknown) gives a stirring, if uncomplicated, performance as the supremely gifted ballplayer who was playing in the Negro Leagues when Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford, Cowboys & Aliens) plucked him for the “great experiment” of integrating baseball. Ford lapses into caricature as the crustier-than-crusty Rickey, but the approach seems fitting for a movie so proudly old-fashioned.
In fact, the whole production feels like the cinematic version of an old baseball storybook aimed at adolescents. But the saga of Robinson, who endured the bigotry of his time without fighting back — a promise he had made Rickey as a condition of his being the trailblazer — is too inspiring to really screw up. Thankfully, 42 delivers the goods. —Phil Bacharach