42 written and directed by Brian Helgeland, with Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford and John C. McGinley. A Warner Brothers release. 128 minutes. Opens Friday (April 12). See listings. Rating: NNN
This biopic elevates Jackie Robinson's racial-barrier-breaking debut baseball season to the level of myth. It would be easy to write off 42 as a cheesy sports soap opera, especially since Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson as almost impossibly earnest, and a gruff-voiced Harrison Ford, as Dodgers boss Branch Rickey, barks about the significance of the story every few scenes.
Yet Robinson is almost mythic in his cultural significance, and writer/director Brian Helgeland treats the material honorably rather than manipulatively. If you can stomach a little corn with your ballpark frank, it's a charmingly old-fashioned and touching sports weepy.
Sure, Helgeland's script occasionally skips over and streamlines history, to the inevitable chagrin of baseball purists, but these flaws never overwhelm the warmhearted charm. 42 should fall into the Field Of Dreams category of romantic baseball movies that make even the most hardened jocks tear up.