‘42’ may be idealistic, but Robinson's story is perfect for film

42 Chadwick Boseman in ‘42.’ Rated PG-13, 128 min. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2013.
Chadwick Boseman in ‘42.’ Rated PG-13, 128 min. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2013.

Telling the true story of how Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play on a Major League Baseball team in the modern era, “42” is an unimpeachable feel-good film that perfectly melds sports action with biographical drama – and throws in a timely ethics lesson to boot.

Written and directed by Brian Helgeland, “42” took a risk by casting little-known actor Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, and it sure paid off. He has the easy charm of a young Denzel Washington or a young Tom Hanks, but brings enough of an edge to make Robinson’s struggle resonate.

As Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, Harrison Ford gives his least Ford-like performance in years – which is to say, he creates a unique character with interesting motives. Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Andre Holland and many more add to the seamless cast that helps create a diverse snapshot of a complex America in the late 1940s.

Accurate to the period and not dodging the often difficult subject matter, there is some strong race-based language throughout, so families, field trips and Little Leagues beware. Nevertheless, “42” stands as both a solid film and a strong teaching tool.

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