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Brian Helgeland
Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Lucas Black, Andre Holland, Alan Tudyk, Hamish Linklater
Writing Credits:
Brian Helgeland

In a game divided by color, he made us see greatness.

The life story of Jackie Robinson and his history-making signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers under the guidance of team executive Branch Rickey.

Box Office:
$40 million.
Opening Weekend
$27.487 million on 3003 screens.
Domestic Gross
$94.927 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 128 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 7/16/2013

• “Stepping Into History” Featurette
• “Full-Contact Baseball” Featurette
• “The Legacy of the Number 42” Featurette
• Preview
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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42 [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 16, 2013)

If one wants to discuss the greatest athlete of the last 100 years, one can muster an exciting debate. If one wants to discuss the most important athlete of that period, though, the list becomes much shorter and comes with few realistic candidates.

Some may disagree, but I’d argue that Jackie Robinson tops that chart – and does so easily. 2013’s 42 considers Robinson’s case as it looks at aspects of his career.

42 starts in 1945 and lets us see that Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) wants to finally break the “race barrier” in Major League Baseball. He seeks to bring in a player from the Negro Leagues and decides that shortstop Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) boasts the talent and personality to blaze this trail. We follow Robinson’s controversial path to the Major Leagues as well as his relationship with wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie).

Over the decades since his death, Robinson has begun to turn more into a symbol than a man. 42 works to portray the person behind the legend and succeeds – usually.

A couple of concerns crop up through 42. First, it occasionally threatens to become a Jackie Robinson biopic without much Jackie Robinson. While the Dodger doesn’t vanish for long stretches of time, he sometimes takes a backseat to the drama that surrounds him. Some of this seems necessary to place events in the broader picture, but I think the film should’ve stayed more consistently focused on its title character.

This becomes especially true given how much time Rickey gets. Some of this makes sense, as Rickey obviously played a major role in the tale; without Rickey’s willingness to push boundaries, this story doesn’t exist. (In this configuration, at least; obviously an African-American would’ve eventually played in the Major Leagues, but we don’t know who or when.)

While Rickey plays a necessary role, I don’t think he needs to come to the fore as often as he does. Perhaps this becomes an acknowledgement of Ford’s casting; writer/director Brian Helgeland might’ve want major screen time for a major star.

Whatever Helgeland’s motivation might have been, an unfortunate consequence arises. Many movies that nominally focus on minority subjects end up concentrating on their majority enablers. That often becomes true here, and I think it detracts from Robinson’s achievements – especially because the film makes it look like Rickey dominates Robinson.

In truth, I don’t know the particulars of the Robinson/Rickey relationship. I don’t know how much encouragement the player needed from the owner to get through the ordeal Robinson endured.

I do feel that 42 threatens to leave us with the impression that Robinson was a hothead who never would’ve succeeded without the calming presence of his boss. I don’t think Helgeland intends this to be the case, but it’s how I view the result. We find multiple scenes in which Rickey acts as a soothing Obi-Wan to Robinson’s impetuous Luke.

Not that the film fails to show us how much misery Robinson went through, of course. Indeed, with its large focus on the 1947 season – Robinson’s first with the Dodgers – we find scene after scene in which the player goes through abuse, so we sense how difficult this would've been.

I wish 42 had played it less safe, though. In addition to the traditional way in which it concentrates on Rickey, 42 also feels like a throwback movie, which is good and bad. While it packs a nice emotional punch, it can be a bit trite.

Helgeland clearly channels his inner Spielberg, as 42 feels strongly influenced by that legendary director. From the camera style – with many slow zoom-ins – to the John Williams-esque score to the sentimental treatment of its characters – the movie channels Spielberg from start to finish.

That means the usual pros and cons that come with a Spielberg flick. 42 does give us a rousing piece that touches the audience, but it can be awfully manipulative at times. While I don’t think it needs to be “edgy” and I find its subdued period feel to work for the subject, I’d have liked the film to seem less… soft, I guess. The movie plays it safe so much of the time that it can feel watered down and artificial.

None of these comments mean I don’t like 42, as I think it offers fairly good entertainment. Despite whatever contrivances we find, the natural power of the story keeps us involved, and we care about the leads.

The actors do quite well in their roles. Boseman exhibits the necessary strength and center of focus as Robinson, while Ford delivers a nearly revelatory performance. Usually an action hero, Ford submerges himself in the role to a splendid degree. Often underappreciated as an actor, Ford delivers one of his all-time best performances; hopefully Oscar will remember him come award season.

42 reproduces its era well and can be a joy to watch just for the baseball segments. I love the sport and enjoy the ability to see it replicated on the big screen. When the movie indulges in those elements, I really like it.

The rest of the time, though, the tendency toward mythology and sentiment threatens to overwhelm 42. It tells an important tale and helps humanize Jackie Robinson, but I wish it’d focused more on a dramatic version of events without the trite, contrived feel we often get here.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C-

42 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a consistently fine presentation.

Sharpness seemed strong. A few slightly soft shots materialized – mainly due to a gauzy feel to match the period setting - but the vast majority of the flick demonstrated good delineation. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. Source flaws also didn’t create any distractions, as the flick lacked defects.

Given its period setting, I expected a subdued palette from 42, and it went along the anticipated lines. The flick featured a fairly sepia-oriented tone with a bit of green as well. Within that, the colors seemed fine. Blacks were dense and dark, while shadows came across as smooth and clear. Across the board, I felt pleased with the picture.

While not a slam-bang mix, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of 42 provided reasonably vivid accompaniment to the action. The soundfield created a good sense of atmosphere. Music offered nice stereo delineation, and the effects formed a feeling of place and setting.

Some scenes such as those with aircraft or trains opened up the room in a decent manner, but the majority of the soundscape’s most involving material revolved around baseball games. Those sequences made nice use of all the channels and moved things about the spectrum well. Those scenes added the most pizzazz to the package.

Audio quality was good. Speech always remained crisp and concise, while music fared well. The score sounded rich and full at all times. Effects seemed accurate and dynamic, and they boasted nice low-end response when necessary. I felt this qualified as a “B+” soundtrack.

Only a few featurettes fill out the set. Stepping Into History runs nine minutes, 42 seconds and includes comments from writer/director Brian Helgeland, baseball legend Hank Aaron, and actors Harrison Ford, Chadwick Boseman, Nicole Beharie and Andre Holland. “History” covers characters, cast and performances. Some of this provides the standard praise for the actors, but we get some decent insights, especially into how they transformed themselves.

With the 10-minute, five-second Full-Contact Baseball, we locate notes from Helgeland, Boseman, Aaron, Holland, Ford, VFX supervisor Jamie Dixon, executive producer Jason Clark, baseball consultant Pete Smith, 2nd unit director Allan Graf, and actors Lucas Black, Brad Beyer, Ryan Merriman, Derek Phillips, Blake Sanders, Hamish Linklater, Brett Cullen and Jesse Luken. The show discusses the film’s attempts to recreate baseball circa the 1940s with notes about stadiums, costumes, training the actors, and other sport-related issues. Like “History”, “Baseball” feels a bit superficial, but it includes enough good notes to make it worthwhile.

Finally, The Legacy of the Number 42 fills nine minutes, 17 seconds with info from Ford, Helgeland, Aaron, Boseman, Black, producer Thomas Tull, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, former MLB players Don Newcombe, Ralph Brance and Ed Charles, son David Robinson, and former football player Jerome Bettis. This one covers a little of the history behind the film. Also somewhat fluffy, I like it because we get to hear from the old players; maybe someone else doesn’t want to hear folks like Aaron and Branca reflect, but I’m not that person.

The disc opens with an ad for Pacific Rim. No trailer for 42 appears here.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of 42. This features the “Stepping Into History” program but no other extras.

42 takes on a legendary subject with mixed results. While it often becomes rousing and entertaining, it can seem a little too trite and safe. The Blu-ray delivers strong visuals and audio but includes only a handful of bonus materials. 42 offers a pleasant experience but doesn’t do more than create moderate entertainment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.05 Stars Number of Votes: 20
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