DAVID GREENE, HOST:
April 15th, 1947 was the day Jackie Robinson first played as a Brooklyn Dodger, and this weekend, a new movie comes out telling the story of how he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The movie's called "42." That was Robinson's number. Film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "42" is old-fashioned and earnest to a fault, but it's hard to imagine a film about Jackie Robinson doing it any other way. The man who made Robinson a Dodger was general manager Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford. He's determined to integrate baseball, and hand-picks Robinson for the job.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "42")
HARRISON FORD: (as Branch Rickey) People aren't going to like this. They're going to do anything to get you to react.
TURAN: When the two men meet, Rickey lets Robinson know he has to control his temper no matter what's thrown at him if this venture is to succeed.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "42")
FORD: (as Branch Rickey) We win if the world is convinced of two things: that you are a fine gentleman and a great baseball player.
TURAN: "42" has been smart in its choice of actors. Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson, and Nicole Beharie is his wife Rachel, who lived the whole thing with him.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "42")
NICOLE BEHARIE: (as Rachel) Promise me you'll write.
CHADWICK BOSEMAN: (as Jackie Robinson) When have I ever not written?
BEHARIE: (as Rachel) I want you to know I'm there for you, even if it's words on paper.
BOSEMAN: (as Jackie Robinson) Right. You're in my heart.
BEHARIE: (as Rachel) You're getting close now, and the closer you get, the worse they'll be. Just don't let them get to you.
TURAN: Writer-director Brian Helgeland, who won an Oscar for writing the very different "L.A. Confidential," does not soft-pedal the savage, poisonous nature of the racism Robinson had to deal with from opponents, umpires and his own teammates. This story had so much drama in real life, that "42" ends up being effective in its gee-whiz way almost in spite of itself.
Still, you can't help wishing the telling was sharper than it is, that "42" wasn't so much the standard Hollywood biopic. When the credits of "42" announce elements of this film have been dramatized, it's tempting to reply: not dramatized enough.
GREENE: That's Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for both MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.