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Movie review: Nostalgic '42' polishes the Robinson legend

Published April 13, 2013 2:04 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The fuzzily nostalgic biopic "42" makes the unsurprising declaration that Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play major league baseball, was a hero and inspiration to millions.

The movie winds through two pivotal years of Robinson's baseball career: 1946, when Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) was signed by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to play in the Dodgers' AAA farm club in Montreal; and 1947, his rookie season with the Dodgers, when he endured racist taunts from fans and rival teams — and led the league, Rickey notes, in being hit by pitches.

Writer-director Brian Helgeland ("A Knight's Tale") illuminates some lesser-known aspects of Robinson's legend, such as the slow-building support of his fellow Dodgers and the enduring love of his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie). Boseman is a charismatic newcomer, who captures Robinson's on-field athleticism and off-field toughness.

Some supporting players, like Christopher Meloni as the Dodgers' irascible manager Leo Durocher and Lucas Black as team captain Pee-Wee Reese, shine in small moments. But the movie is hampered by Ford's scenery-chewing portrayal of Rickey, and a sentimentality toward old-time baseball that makes "Field of Dreams" look like a documentary.

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Opens Friday, April 12, at theaters everywhere; rated PG-13 for thematic elements including language; 122 minutes.