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The critics are in agreement that this film will be a box office success because of the power of the Jackie Robinson story. Chadwick Boseman portrays Robinson extremely well and brings a legendary name and story to life for all to see. However, virtually all of the reviewers also point to aspects of the story that were missing from Helgeland’s film, which take away from the real events that transpired surrounding Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball. Some point to the fact that it focused on a very narrow piece of his life, really only three years, and ignores many of the before-and-after events that would have added to its historical accuracy. Others claim that there was not enough of the inner turmoil Jackie was forced to endure during that tumultuous time period, which many believe led to his premature death at only fifty-three. Yet another points to the religious underpinnings of both Robinson and Rickey that was left out of the movie almost entirely. During the early years of Jackie’s career, he would routinely pray for the strength to continue to face the racism he was forced to deal with on a daily basis. While the film certainly leaves out aspects of the real Jackie Robinson story, it does, however, bring to life why Robinson has achieved such legendary status. It thus became one of the highest grossing baseball movies of all time and will continue to be an educational piece for generations to come that want to learn more about number 42.

Anderson, Dave. "Feeling the Fury of Robinson, Face to Face." New York Times 12 April 2013: 11.
Boseman's portrayal of Robinson reminds Anderson of the fiery passion Robinson had both on and off the field in real life. "And yet he was the same because Boseman seemed to burn inside with the flame I so often saw burst open during games while covering the Dodgers during Robinson's last four seasons, from 1953 to 1956."
Berardinelli, James. "42." Reelviews. http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=2608
"Robinson's story is inspirational, and there are times when Brian Helgeland's conventional narrative evokes powerful emotions. Unfortunately, the generic bio-pic structure of 42 prevents it from ever becoming something great. The film takes no chances and does nothing bold. It's a competent chronicle of Robinson's life from 1945 through 1947 but it doesn't do much more than a documentary could do. Instead of being the definitive cinematic interpretation of Robinson's turbulent clash with baseball's deeply embedded culture of segregation, it offers a rote account of events. It's worth seeing because the film is competently presented and the story is inherently important, but I couldn't help be disappointed that the result wasn't more fresh or visionary."
Byrd, Ayana. "For Love of the Game." Essence 44.1 (May 2013): 69,72.
"Chosen in 1945 by the Brooklyn Dodgers to become the first African-American player in Major League Baseball, Robinson possessed a talent, courage and bravery that changed history. And as the new film 42 (named for his jersey number) shows, he would not have had the fortitude to do it without his wife, Rachel." "What did worry the now 90-year-old? That the biopic would be all baseball and racism and no romance." "We were passionately in love, and I'm pleased the film captured that," says Robinson. "As Jackie entered this new arena where he was going to be severely challenged by social forces, he needed me. And I felt protective of him."
Carson, Tom "42: Jackie Robinson Doesn't get the Movie he Deserves" GQ 12 April 2013. http://www.gq.com/blogs/the-feed/2013/04/tom-carson-reviews-42-jackie-robinson-doesnt-get-the-movie-he-deserves.html
'42' doesn't amount to much. It is too cowardly not to have a white man (Rickey in this case) as the puppet master of racial integration. The unhealthy amount of credit and screen time given to Rickey is a discredit to the Robinson story. This was probably done to get financing from a "Caucasian box-office name." Helgeland portrays Rickey as a gruff, cigar- chomping old coot to please the crowd, not to show him as a visionary executive. The script never allows Boseman to deeply express the hardships that most certainly befell Robinson during that first season. A plus of the film was its ability to accurately capture 1940's America in décor, costume, and setting.
Carter, Kelley L. "Chadwick Boseman." Ebony April 2013: 32.
Carter interviews actor Boseman. When an actor has experienced racism directly--like the character had--it's demeaning and in your face. There are certain times as an actor when you can use your own life, and there are other times as an actor when you have to escape yourself and totally go into what somebody else's experience was like. For Boseman, the n-word does not have the same power as it did for Robinson because people can't use it to stop him from doing something. Jackie Robinson was a man who demanded respect. The way he was insulted in front of crowds, to Boseman, was way more insulting, way more destructive, and way more indicative of what racism was about than someone using the n-word.
Coffey, Wayne. "Former Dodger Ralph Branca believes ‘42' hits home run on Jackie Robinson." New York Daily News 22 May 2013. http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/coffey-branca-believes-42-hits-home-run-jackie-article-1.1351274
"Interviewed by noted baseball author Marty Appel, Branca [pitcher on the Brooklyn Dodgers team] praised the film's accuracy, and still shudders at what his friend endured that year, from headhunting and spiking on the field to the racist vitriol that spewed from the likes of Ben Chapman, manager of the Phillies."
Denby, David. "Artful Dodgers: The Current Cinema." New Yorker 22 April 2013: 114. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2013/04/22/130422crci_cinema_denby
Brian Helgeland "gets a lot of things right." Of the many actors who have portrayed Robinson over the years, Chadwick Boseman is the most physically convincing. Ford plays Rickey with a "streak of arrogant mischief." Helgeland captures that unique quality of racism that is often hard to define. He shows white men tense up whenever a black man enters the room. But Helgeland doesn't take sides against the white players. Often he presents some of the responses of whites against Robinson to be "the way things are" or "they were raised that way." This benefit-of-the-doubt approach shows how ingrained racism was in American society and just how hard Robinson's first season was because of it.
Duggan, Keith. "Race is still the most slippery and volatile subject in America." Irish Times 20 April 2013: 10.
"In 42, the transformation of white America is represented by the slow drift of applause through the white sections of the stand, the gradual recognition among Robinson's team-mates that his audacity and skill makes them pennant contenders, and the lone comedic scene when a Dodgers player invites Robinson to take a shower with him as [he] had always waited until his team-mates had finished." "But, of course, the transformation was nothing like as clean cut or as swift. The reason director Brian Helgeland plays with such a straight bat is he is tackling the most slippery and volatile subject in America: race."
"First lady lauds Robinson biopic." Washington Post 3 April 2013.
"The first lady [Michelle Obama] said she burned with emotion during ‘42' watching the ‘outright discrimination' the Robinsons faced." "She emphasized that society has changed: ‘Although it still happens, it is far less acceptable for someone to yell out a racial slur while you're walking down the street -- it still happens, but not tolerated'." This film's message is powerful and is something the citizens of this country can learn from.
Folan, Peter. "Taking the Field." America 20 May 2013: 29-30.
"Still, for those already familiar with the basic contours of Robinsons biography, '42' is more likely to provide supporting details than broad new insights. It comes as no surprise, for instance, that fans and fellow ballplayers hurled racial slurs at Robinson virtually everywhere he played. But many viewers may know little about the extraordinary vitriol of the Philadelphia Phillies' manager, Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk), whose dugout barkings the movie depicts as more violent than those of any other character. . . . What '42' lacks in biographical incisiveness, however, it makes up for in thought-provoking moral and social commentary. One example of this is the way the film handles the virtue of courage or, as different characters call it many times, 'guts.' Helgeland's script makes tacit appeal to the Aristotelian claim that all virtues have opposites as well as deceptive equivalents, both of which are vicious. In one scene, Robinson questions Rickey, saying, 'You want a player who doesn't have the guts to fight back!' Rickey responds: 'No. I want a player who's got the guts not to fight back.' This marks the first of many times that '42' throws light on the thin line between courage and the vices of cowardice and recklessness."
Getting it right in '42': The Jackie Robinson film was a nonstop two-year project for Brian Helgeland. ESPN April 12, 2013. http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/9161338/
Helgeland: "Whether you're white, black or Hispanic, you follow Jackie Robinson and you root for him. I tried to do it in a way where you experience what he experienced as a human being. When he's being harangued by the Philly manager, I think the audience will feel for him and feel with him because they're traveling the movie with him. If anything, you want to feel the humanity of it. Here's a guy who, under difficult circumstances, did everything in his power to do the right thing. Branch Rickey can't be the guy on the field suffering the abuse, but he's also trying to do the right thing. It doesn't have to be some monumental moment. The story just reminds everyone that there's a right way to go through life. Hopefully, it will inspire everyone on a day-to-day basis."
Hornaday, Ann. "Ann Hornaday Reviews ‘42'." Washington Post 11 April 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/ann-hornaday-reviews-42/2013/04/11/7b4c9118-a109-11e2-9c03-6952ff305f35_story.html
Brian Helgeland succeeds in a straightforward portrayal of Robinson's entry into baseball where others have failed before him. Both Boseman and Ford portray their characters in great detail, from Jackie Robinson's batting stance to Branch Rickey's squint, respectively. Robinson appears in the film as a silent figure in the turmoil that ensued following his emergence as a standout player on the Dodgers. He is more of a "screen for others projections" than "a psychologically complex hero" and remains steadfast in his stoic behavior throughout it all. The inclusion of real life characters makes the film richer in its historical context with most of the "gratifying sequences" occurring on the field when Robinson is just another player.
Jennings, Dana. "The Superhero Who Leapt Color Lines." New York Times 7 April 2013.
"The true story of an American Legend" is on display in this film rather than the actual real-life difficulties this man faced while integrating the game of baseball. The film plays off of the line "When legend becomes fact, print the legend." While it includes the racism of the time period, the economic underpinnings of the decision to integrate baseball, and the inner struggle Robinson endures, it leaves out the "complicated, multifaceted man" that Robinson was. Instead of showing these aspects it spends most of its time recounting the legendary status Robinson has on the field and "closes on a resounding upbeat. Led by their brave black rookie, who played in 151 games and batted a sturdy .297 to start his Hall of Fame career, the Dodgers win the 1947 National League pennant by five games over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals and earn the right to face the Yankees, winners of the American League pennant, in the World Series."
Kennedy, Kostya. "The Magic Number." Sports Illustrated 15 April 2013: 1. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1207376/index.htm
"Among the many languages of the Civil Rights movement--the oratory of Martin Luther King Jr., the determined activism of Medgar Evers, the poetry of Langston Hughes--perhaps none resonated with more simple eloquence than the baseball playing of Jackie Robinson." The fact Robinson was in the major leagues was a positive start, "but it was how he played that reformed prejudice and delivered the more cogent blow to ignorance and hate." Boseman is the "best part of this new film" and delivers a moving performance. 42 is a film that has the power and ability to teach current children and major league players alike the power of Robinson's play on the field and his character off of it.
Kepner, Tyler. "Immersing Himself to Play a Pioneer." New York Times 13 April 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/sports/baseball/channeling-jackie-robinson-for-starring-role-in-42.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Chad Boseman had to get inside the head of a baseball player in order to play a role such as this. He realized the mental side of the game, which made him appreciate the accomplishments of Robinson that much more. He described it as a meditative-like state being up at the plate and was amazed at the calm Robinson portrayed in the face of such adversity.
Metaxas, Eric. "Movie about Robinson Misses Christian Dimension." Christian Century 15 May 2013: 18.
"A new film about Jackie Robinson, titled 42 -- the number he wore during his historic career -- tells the triumphant story of how Robinson integrated professional baseball by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers." "But where did Rickey get that crazy idea and why did Robinson agree? The film doesn't tell us, but the answers to these questions lie in the devout Christian faith of both men." Rickey and Robinson were both Methodists, as the film points out, but only briefly. They leave out scenes of Robinson praying for the strength not to fight back and continue to live by the Christian ideal of "turn the other cheek." Omitting this aspect of the story may have been a financial mistake as recent religious films have done very well in the box office.
Miller, Daniel, and Nicole Sperling. "When hate hits home; Can kids handle the racial epithets hurled in the Jackie Robinson biopic '42'? Some parents see the movie as a teachable moment." Los Angeles Times 16 April 2013: D1.
With the hardcore racism in this film, it raises the question about what age is appropriate to see the movie. "Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard who advocates for responsible media programming, says that by age 10 most American children have heard much of the name-calling that goes on between races. Parents can use the film as an opportunity for a broader discussion about all kinds of racism." While the amount of racial slurs is certainly disturbing for all, it can be used as a resource for parents to teach their children about the negative affects of racism.
Phillips, Michael. "42: Jackie Robinson has to share the spotlight with Branch Rickey." Chicago Tribune 15 April 2013. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-15/entertainment/sc-mov-0409-42-20130411_1_chadwick-boseman-nichole-beharie-branch-rickey
Helgeland presents a smooth-edged version of a life that was full of sharp and painful edges. The film does too little and takes too few risks. While Helgeland has talent for writing scripts, the film has the "tentative air of a project watched very, very closely by Robinson's survivors." Only hints of the man that was Jackie Robinson can be detected in ‘42'.
Podhoretz, John. "Jackie, Oh." Weekly Standard 6 May 2013: 47.
Podhoretz was unimpressed with the inaccuracies of the film believes it did not need the Hollywood fluff Helgeland provides: "42 is chock-full of historical elisions and inventions, all of them unnecessary since the actual story was so dramatic and intense it needed no melodramatic adornment."
Pols, Mary. "42: The Jackie Robinson Biopic is a Solid Hit." Time 12 April 2013. http://entertainment.time.com/2013/04/12/42-the-jackie-robinson-biopic-is-a-solid-hit/
Pols has a generally positive outlook on the film and its messaging. She believes it is an inspiring tale about an American hero yet acknowledges that it is simply "a conversation starter." It does not delve too deeply into the extreme racism of the time and the negative effects it had on Robinson but rather lightens the film with small heart-warming scenes either before or after racist ones. She also makes the argument that Helgeland frames the most racist of characters as "hard to look at" appearance-wise. Seemingly telling a white audience that only the most grotesque of characters would act in such a way.
Puig, Claudia. "'42': A bush-league take on hall-of-fame history; Robinson deserves a stronger story." USA Today 12 April 2013: 6D. http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2013/04/11/42-review/2024949/
The film did not let the truly inspiring story of Jackie Robinson carry the weight but instead was "formulaic" with unnecessary "blaring music, platitudinous dialogue and over earnest repetition." Brian Helgeland did not provide enough of the "before and after" of his story and instead focused on just a brief two-year portion of Robinson's fabled career, with another excessive piece of the movie dealing with Branch Rickey, leaving the viewer feeling "incomplete."
Roeper, Richard. "42." Roger Ebert.com. http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/42-2013
The racism of the time is both disgraceful and its portrayal in the film is unfortunately spot on. "That this all happened in 1947 — history recent enough there are people around who remember it — might come as shocking news to younger generations who know little about Jackie Robinson other than that his number 42 being universally retired because he broke baseball's shameful color barrier. For this reason alone, ‘42' is a valuable film — a long overdue, serious big-screen biopic about one of the most important American pioneers of the 20th century." However, Helgeland comes up short in the depth of this story, seemingly to only skim the surface. "From the soundtrack to the speechifying to the subject material to the script's somber tone, ‘42' has the uniform of an Oscar contender, but it falls short of Hall of Fame status. Jackie Robinson was great. ‘42' is good."
Scott, A. O. "That Rookie at First Is in a New Position." New York Times 11 April 2013. http://movies.nytimes.com/2013/04/12/movies/42-with-chadwick-boseman-as-jackie-robinson.html?_r=0
Scott's article calls Brian Helgeland's "42" "blunt, simple and sentimental," more suited for a hero-worshiping fourth-grade classroom. The story of Jackie Robinson could have been done with more edge, more toughness or contentiousness if done by some one like Clint Eastwood or Spike Lee. Nevertheless, this decision was done honorably to make the movie accessible and inspiring to all. Helgeland does a great job showing the raw emotions and the hardships that Robinson and those close to him had to endure to survive the 1947 season. Helgeland also does a fantastic job showing the realities that were Jim Crow America, and he dispels the myth that the times of our grandparents had a "glow of nostalgic innocence." The African American characters are perhaps the most stiff and least compelling of the characters because they are so caught up in a cultural transformation that they do not know how to act.
Travers, Peter. "No Crying in Baseball." Rolling Stone 25 April 2013: 75. http://www.rollingstone.com/moveis/reviews/42-20130410
Brian Helgeland did exactly what he set out to do. He successfully "dodges biopic clichés by focusing only on that first season," allowing further details, that may have been forgotten over the years, to be portrayed. Viewers get an inside look at Robinson's personality as well as the inner struggle he endured during that tumultuous time period. The performances of Boseman, Ford, and Meloni were exceptional, from everything down to the movements of Robinson and cigar smoking of Rickey.
Turan, Kenneth. "Pain and gain; Jackie Robinson's heroic tale is at the heart of the earnest '42'." Los Angeles Times 12 April 2013: D1.
Turan points out that many aspects of this film are missing in order to be a more accurate portrayal of what happened. However, he acknowledges the quality of the movie and states, "You can't help getting caught up in this story, even as you are wishing the telling was sharper than it is." The real "Robinson's combination of fortitude, restraint and passion for the game was stunning," and his portrayal by Boseman was one of the best aspects of this film.

See Also

Beale, Lewis. "In a league of his own;'42' is on deck with the tale of trailblazer Jackie Robinson." Newsday 7 April 2013: C7.

Brownstein, Bill. "Here's to you, Mr. Robinson; 42 does justice to groundbreaking career of baseball legend, even if Montreal's role in it gets short shrift." The Gazette (Montreal) 12 April 2013: B1.

Gregory, Sean. "A Legend's Lost Legacy." Time 8 April 2013.

Groen, Rick. "The Hero without a Flaw." The Globe 12 April 2013.

Jenkins, Mark. "Jackie Robinson film '42' opens, starring Howard graduate Chadwick Boseman." Washington Post 12 April 2013: T27.

Lamb, Chris. "The redemption of Clay Hopper; The biopic 42 serves as a reminder of how working with Jackie Robinson changed the Montreal Royals manager's views on race." The Gazette (Montreal) 5 April 2013.

Taube, Michael. "Jackie Robinson, Republican; The movie '42' recalls the courage of a baseball pioneer and his conservative roots." Washington Times 17 April 2013: B3.