42 (Blu-ray Review)

42It’s surprising it took so long to get a film based on Jackie Robinson joining “white baseball” produced.  For many years, auteur Spike Lee had attempted but not been able to get one off the ground.  2013 finally gave us a Jackie Robinson film.  42 boasted the highest grossing opening weekend and the 2nd highest total gross for a film about baseball (A League Of Their Own is first).  Veteran writer Brian Helgeland brings to life this historical moment, not only in sports, but in American history.  The movie goes the route of being a traditional uplifting, motivational, what-have-you story.  Everything from its look, to the dialogue, to the score bring that sense and feeling that movies such as Remember The Titans bring along.  A movie that makes you think its bringing about big harsh challenges, but in reality is playing it pretty safe, but still managing to deliver on that same emotion and result that most audiences will be satisfied and feel the film earned it.

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42 tells the story of Jackie Robinson stepping into a Major League Baseball that was white’s only.  The film chronicles Jackie’s chance in the minors, earning his spot on the Brooklyn Dodger for his first season.  The story and Jackie’s struggles are told in an uplifting and positive fashion, becoming an inspiration to a race and opening the eyes of an entire nation.

The producers of 42 appear to have opted for the super positive, family oriented, uplifting sports drama angle to tell Jackie Robinson’s story.  Therefore, you’ve seen this thing done many times before and know all the beats that go with the film to until the last credit rolls.  What could have been a grim and challenging film pushing the limits ends up being super friendly and fairytale-like.  For someone who has seen many films like this, it’s kinda hard to keep a solid investment in it as you know every time how the film is going to want you to feel and when.  The film also only features some textbook danger for Robinson, backing away from ever getting truly dangerous.

For what it is, 42 is a solid piece of popular entertainment.  Its far from being The Blind Side awful, but it’s the same kind of film.  The film is super polished in its appearance and looks great.  There was a lot of CG work on the baseball fields themselves that I had no idea until I saw the special features.  While the photography is very basic, its still a nice film to look at.

From the baseball angle on things, there’s almost too much focus on Robinson during the games and not the games themselves.  Its hard to get into the moment when the only contributing factor is Jackie Robinson’s at bat.  The film is lacking in any sort of suspense regarding the game at hand.  I understand it’s Jackie’s film, but we also need to understand and be engaged in what Jackie’s place in the game at hand means.  Aside from that, a lot of the plays and athleticism in the film are quite genuine and do work.

Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey in the film and I’m very mixed on his performance.  Half the time I felt he was completely the character and shared some superb dramatic moments and line deliveries.  The other half almost felt too overboard and embarrassingly bad.  It was almost as if Ford was doing a comedic impression.  Maybe it was some of the obvious prosthetics on his face.  He balances it out though, as every time I thought he was bad, he delivered a good scene.  Chadwick Boseman has a grand slam of a feature film debut.  He absolute is able to carry the team and gives a very stealthy performance taking ownership of the movie.  He was able to keep himself from going too big and able to become a part of the movie and was incredible natural.

42 may not be the complete gritty honest history of Jackie Robinson, but it works as an inspirational sports tale.  The film is another addition to the library of many uplifting sports stories we have seen over the years.  It’s pretty safe for a family to view and if the attention was to reach the widest audience, young and old, then toning it down and making it more accessible may have been a wise choice.

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Warner Bros 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoding delivers a perfect picture.  The 2.35:1 film is perfect from start to finish.  Everything about this picture is consistent.  42 is rich with detail all of its environments.  Skin texture and tone is top notch throughout.  As stated before, there’s plenty CG in the film and none of it is noticeable.  Clothes, bats, dugouts, walls, everything has its texture perfectly visible and clear.  The film is very three dimensional looking, giving it plenty of depth and quality.  Colors run very bold and strong throughout.

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42’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is crisp, clear and engrossing.  During the baseball scenes the surround is nice and present giving you the best feeling that you’re at the game while in the comfort of your living room.  Foley effects and volume levels are structured perfectly as to feel natural and not distracting.  The score is mixed perfectly and never takes away from any dialogue or ambience in the film.  42’s audio is the perfect teammate for its video presentation.

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All bonus material is presented in high definition 1080p MPEG-4 AVC and Dolby Digital 2.0.  The release comes in a combo pack with DVD and Ultraviolet copies.

  •  Behind The Scenes: Stepping Into History (9:14) A short piece discussing the casting and praising of Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman and the actors own insights on their characters and events.
  • Behind The Scenes: Full Contact Baseball (10:05) – This behind the scenes look discusses the building of the baseball park sets and the costuming.  The cast, director and 2nd unit director give their take on the experience, training, audition process and the physicality of old time baseball.
  • Short Feature: The Legacy Of The Number 42 (9:17) – Some cast, crew and former players discuss the challenges of Jackie Robinson’s debut in Major League Baseball.

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Warner Bros delivers a pretty much flawless presentation of 42.  The audio and video boast the highest quality.  Fans of the film will be very please and definitely must own it.  The special features leave much to be desired, but are good enough to be Cliff’s Notes to an ideal set of documentaries.  While I found the film to be stereotypical and sort of taking an easier route, it’s not a bad one.  42 is meant as a crowd pleaser for general audiences reaching all ages.  In that respect it is very successful in what it does.  One just has to wonder what a bolder film or that Spike Lee version may have looked like.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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