For Better or Worse, 42 Is Safe

If anything, Jackie Robinson biopic might be a little too reverential

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 12, 2013 11:17 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Jackie Robinson biopic 42 slides into theaters today, and it's being greeted by a polite ovation from critics, who for the most part seem to admire Robinson's story more than the filmmaking. Here's what people are saying:

  • If director Brian Helgeland's "intention was to tell Jackie's story in a linear, paint-by-numbers fashion, he has achieved that goal," writes James Berardinelli at ReelViews. "The film takes no chances and does nothing bold." Still, he gives it a decent score, saying it's "a worthwhile sports movie" that "evokes powerful emotions" thanks to its compelling story.

  • AO Scott at the New York Times has a more charitable take, writing that Helgeland "has honorably sacrificed the chance to make a great movie in the interest of making one that is accessible and inspiring." The film is pure hero-worship. "It is blunt, simple, and sentimental, using time-tested methods to teach a clear and rousing lesson." In the process, it gives younger viewers an unflinching look at the ugly "world their grandparents were born into."
  • "Chadwick Boseman is perfect as Robinson," gushes Stephen Whitty at the Star-Ledger. "He captures, in a clenched jaw or a sidelong glance, a lifetime's worth of dearly attained dignity." Harrison Ford, meanwhile, might get a supporting actor nod; "it is the first time in years I have seen Ford have fun onscreen." Sure, the movie is "thick with Hollywood cliches … but that doesn't mean it won't make you feel good."
  • Wesley Morris at Grantland complains that the movie is a little too reverential. Robinson doesn't have to change, "White America does. That's great for messaging, but hell on drama." It's the white characters who evolve, not the saint wearing 42. "Having an actor play Robinson makes sense for realism, but most of the time a piece of cardboard with Robinson's likeness would have done the trick."

This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in a scene from 42.
This film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in a scene from "42."   (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures, D. Stevens)
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An official trailer for "42."   (YouTube)

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