42 ★★

Leave it to Hollywood to mess up one of the greatest and most known stories in baseball history. The film covers the first year of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) as he tries to fit into baseball, which is an all white sport and many don't want that to change.

42 tries way too hard to pack a punch and in the end I think it just comes up way too short considering the subject matter and its importance to not only baseball history but history itself. What emotional impact there is mainly comes from knowing that this is based on a true story and today getting to see how ugly of a past that we had. The first hour or so of the film is pretty sugar-coated and beats us over the head with how "ugly" the past was. We get all sorts of scenes setting up what the country was like in the late 1940s and all of these scenes don't have much of an impact because of how poorly they're handled by writer-director Brian Helgeland.

His screenplay gives us these scenes in such simple ways that they're drained of any impact and even worse is how we get an annoying score to try and give them a bigger punch. That's not to say that every scene like this is bad. There's a terrific sequence in Cincinnati where we see Robinson taking abuse from the crowd and the now historic moment when Louisville kid Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) goes to him and puts his arm around him. This scene is beautifully done as is a really ugly sequence where Philadelphia manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) uses all sorts of racial slurs to get inside the player's head.

The one saving grace are the performances with Boseman doing a very good job with the role of Robinson but one wishes we had gotten inside the character's head more. Tudyk is very memorable in his role as Chapman and Black is very good in his role as Reese. Nicole Beharie is also good in the role of the supporting wife. Harrison Ford is making noise in his role as Branch Rickey but I must admit that I found it somewhat hammy.

Again, 42 is a well-meaning movie but I think it plays things way too safe at times and at other times things are just too pretty or drained of any power. It's too bad but hopefully this story can be done again at some point.