Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Addendum to My "42" Review

By now, you may have checked out my latest film review for Collective Publishing.  If you did then you know I have many glowing things to say about 42.  But I actually had several more that I had written in the review, but when I was proofreading it, I came to the conclusion that the review was a little too long.  So, I sliced out large chunks of the review, especially the parts that focused on what made it a solid nostalgic baseball film.  It ended up making my review sound like I felt the film's main value was a look at the struggles Jackie Robinson had in breaking the colour barrier in professional baseball and a social commentary on race relations of the time.  You may have started to think 42 wasn't a sports picture.

After I sent 42 to my editor, I wrote the Evil Dead review, which was a review that you may have noticed was several miles away from glowing.  Yet the review turned out to be about 300 words longer than what is currently my favourite 2013 released film.  It seems rage fuels me to quickly throw together a review and trick me into thinking it is short and sweet.  Now, the length of a review doesn't actually define the quality of the content.  I'm still happy with my 42 review.  It does seem that my cutting down of the review probably wasn't justified considering writing long reviews seem to be what I do.

Okay fine, I write everything long.  It's why people typically make sure they've gone to the bathroom and turned off the oven before opening an email from me.  And 42 wasn't a short review.  But I did leave out a few things that I feel are worth bringing up.

This is still a baseball movie.  A film that is a loving tribute to old school baseball.  The priority of the film is about Jackie Robinson's battle to break through the colour barrier and a deep criticism of racial beliefs of the time (and even currently).  But Robinson loved baseball, and even though he wanted to fight for civil rights, he even more really wanted to play ball at the highest level.  In order to make this film properly, it had to make baseball seem like something worthy of that love and a sport that can capture the imagination of a nation.  Baseball had to enthrall the modern audience even if the film was being viewed by non-sport fans.  We needed to see why joining a baseball team mattered or why baseball could push towards some element of social change.  We had to believe it could turn Jackie Robinson into a hero and an idol for all little children.

42 made baseball seem magical.  Some people still have a great love of baseball.  But back in the 1940s, baseball was the Great American Pastime and a cherished treasure of the entire nation.  Baseball back then was viewed differently, but it also had a unique feel and language that doesn't exist anymore.

 The choreography was spectacular and Robinson's athletic feats provided the right dose of action.  It was one of the better framed sport films that successfully made the scenes feel authentic and provided true sporting event excitement.  I mentioned in the review that I was ready to stand up and cheer at the end, and this was partly because the film resonated with me but also it felt like I was at the ball park rooting on my team.  The realism of the scenes make you want to start a wave or fire up a chant to cheer on Robinson.  There aren't many sport films that have been able to create action scenes that get you so fully immersed.

The part that really got me feeling like I found a flux capacitor and transported back to the late '40s to watch authentic old-timey baseball was John C. McGinley's performance as Dodger's radio baseball announcer, Red Barber.  I don't really listen to old baseball broadcasts, but McGinley captured the feel of the old school baseball language and the style I envision from the legendary baseball announcers.  It was phrases and exclamations that aren't common today, which help transport me back to another era.  His commentary helped enhance the baseball scenes.  It showed the care and love that was put into trying to craft a film depicting classic baseball.

There were many small little things that helped make it feel like an authentic look at the sport.  The comradery and joking in the locker room provided entertaining scenes, and helped show that Robinson's star athleticism now made him one of the boys.  You defend your boys.  I believed every scene where the team fought for Robinson because he couldn't ruin his reputation by battling back.  There was also a good dose of humour with the teammates joking around.  I especially liked the scene where Robinson poked fun at an uncomfortable teammate trying to ask why he wouldn't shower with him, because it felt like the sort of thing that happens in locker rooms.  Of course, this is coming from an unathletic writer whose sports experience is from watching TSN.  The key is for it to be able to throw you into the scene and feel like you're witnessing a snippet of reality.

42 was a great story about a great man, and plunged you into the dark side of the 1940s.  I felt Robinson's trials and pain.  It also was just a fantastic sports film that celebrates baseball.  It was one of the all-time great sports movies, but it also succeeded in being something so much deeper and profound.           


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