Rated PG-13 / Runtime 2 hr 8 min / Biography, Drama, Sports
I went into this movie thinking it was going to be a stylized version of a baseball story backed by lyrics from modern rap artists. That's the impression I got from the previews, but that's not the path that this movie takes. This is based on the life of Jackie Robinson. The first black man to play professionally in the major leagues. Of course there are all kinds of bigots and racists that are crying because of it.
Chadwick Boseman plays Jackie Robinson. Physically he looks the part. His performance is uneven throughout the movie. He looks like a deer caught in headlights in one scene, and in the next he's overly emotional. It reminds me of Kanye West talking about Beyonce having one of the best videos ever. I think it is mostly a product of the script and directing. The actors playing his teammates for the most part might as well be cardboard cutouts for all that they add to the movie. Thankfully they are minor characters. Harrison Ford easily steals every scene he is in as Branch Rickey. He once again shows that he is one of the best actors of his generation. The only other performance that is memmorable is from Alan Tudyk. He plays Ben Chapman in the most memmorable scene in the entire movie. You expect racial tension in a movie like this, and Tudyk provides it more than any other character in the movie.
This is a sanitized version of the story of Jackie Robinson. The script, which is written by the director Brian Helgeland, lacks the edge that you would expect from a story like this. There is plenty of comic relief which helps make it entertaining. Whenever the movie threatens to turn dark, there is a swift resolution to bring back the good time feeling. There is very little tension in a story that you would think would be filled with it. There is not enough adversity portrayed in this movie to make you root for the protagonist as much as I wanted to. The whole story is just so vanilla that it sucks the heart and soul out of what this movie could be. The one scene that provides the most tension is easily the most offensive as well. At some point it feels like the movie is less about Jackie Robinson's struggle, and more about all of the people that helped him get through his rookie season.
The bottom line is that this movie is a mostly entertaining almost Disney version of how Jackie Robinson got into the Major Leagues and became a national icon. The movie has flashes of brilliance, but it makes the struggle that Jackie went through look easy when it had to be the opposite. This could have been an inspirational triumph. It falls short of that. It's still worth a look if you are a fan of Robinson, and if not then you might want to wait for it to come out on DVD.