Thursday, April 4, 2013
I love baseball. It's probably the only true "symbol" of America that I embrace with my whole heart. Even if I can't spit back stats or know enough about which players will make my fantasy team stronger, nothing makes me happier than sitting in a ball park.
One of the things I really love about baseball is it's storied history. One of the most important moments in that history and in the history of America in general is the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League player. When I would see trailers for this movie, I would get so pumped. The use of the Jay-Z song Brooklyn (Go Hard) in the trailer was especially effective. I just couldn't wait to see this movie.
In the interest of full disclosure, I missed the first ten minutes of the movie due to a combination of getting lost (I just moved to a new city) and long lines at the concession stand. Here's the plot recap from when I sat down. The movie follows Jackie Robinson on his journey from the Negro Leagues to playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. It's a pretty simple plot. He's a black guy and white guys don't like that he plays baseball. The end.
Let me cut to the chase. As much as it hurts me to say it, you should wait to see this movie. You should wait until it's on DVD or at the very least, in a second run theater. Sadly, it's just not very good. There are some excellent performances. Chad Boseman as Jackie Robinson had a quiet power about him that was really effective. Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson, Jackie's endlessly supportive wife, also turns in a really great performance. However, my favorite performance came from John C. McGinley as Red Barber, the voice of the Dodgers. He's got so many great 40's expressions that are almost throwaway lines, but will make you chuckle if you catch them.
That's one thing that really surprised me about this movie. It's really pretty funny. Watching Jackie rile up his opposition is as humorous as it is inspiring. But in the end, it's really, really hokey and heavy handed. There are a couple of lines that sound like they should've ended with "Everyone caught up now?" for how expository they are.
The big disappointment for me was Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers. He was almost like a cartoon character. The same could be sad for Johnny C's announcer character, but it works for him. I never met Branch Rickey or even saw him interviewed, but I thought that Ford put way to much jowl in his character. I don't know if that sentence makes sense necessarily so to clarify, basically it sounds like he's shaking his cheeks back and forth the whole time he's talking.
I think baseball fans will enjoy this movie for it's chronicling of the time when Jackie Robinson forced the baseball world to move forward. It definitely makes you love baseball. But as far as biopics go, it's very middle of the road. It's got all the biopic and sports movie cliches, even the slow motion shot of the 3rd base coach swinging his arm in a circle during the home run. You don't need to signal him home, it's a home run!
Verdict: Rent this movie one day. I suppose you could do worse.