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April 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Older moviegoers often complain that they don’t make movies like they used to. But judging from the reviews of 42, a biography of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball, this is a movie made exactly the way they used to. Robinson’s image in the film, critics say, is virtually faultless. That’s OK with most critics, but hardly all. Richard Roeper in the Chicago Sun-Times suggests that what it boils down to is “standard, old-fashioned biography fare … a mostly unexceptional film about an exceptional man.” Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal calls it “ponderously reverential” and concludes: “What’s been carefully filtered out of the film as a whole is the tumult and passion of Robinson’s life.” To Rafer Guzmán of Newsday, the film seems “more concerned with burnishing a legend than dramatizing a life.” Perhaps all that was inevitable, Michael Phillips suggests in the Chicago Tribune. The 42 script, he writes, “has the tentative air of a project watched very, very closely by Robinson’s survivors.” On the other hand, A.O. Scott in the New York Times suggests that the film succeeds on its own terms. Director Brian Helgeland, he writes, “has honorably sacrificed the chance to make a great movie in the interest of making one that is accessible and inspiring. Though not accurate in every particular, the movie mostly succeeds in respecting the facts of history and the personality of its hero, and in reminding audiences why he mattered.” And, in the end, Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan concludes, “Robinson’s combination of fortitude, restraint and passion for the game was stunning. You can’t help getting caught up in this story, even as you are wishing the telling was sharper than it is.”