Metascore
62

Generally favorable reviews - based on 39 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 39
  2. Negative: 0 out of 39
  1. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Apr 11, 2013
    75
    Unfortunately, the generic bio-pic structure of 42 prevents it from ever becoming something great.
  2. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Apr 10, 2013
    83
    Helgeland works in what I think of as a conservative — or maybe it's just really, really basic — neoclassical Hollywood style, spelling everything out, letting the story unfold in a plainspoken and deliberate fashion, with a big, wide, open pictorial camera eye. It's like the latter-day Clint Eastwood style, applied to material that's as traditional as can be.
  3. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Apr 11, 2013
    75
    42 may not be a home run, but it’s certainly a solid three-base hit as worthy family entertainment.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Apr 10, 2013
    63
    Given Helgeland's rep as a screenwriter (including an Oscar for 1997's L.A. Confidential), it rankles that 42 settles for the official story. The private Robinson, who died of a heart attack at 53 in 1972, stays private. We stay on the outside looking in. Let it be.
  5. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Apr 11, 2013
    75
    A superior sports movie, dealing honestly with a great American story.
  6. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Apr 12, 2013
    42
    The filmmaking is TV-movie-of-the-week dull and Robinson’s ordeal is hammered home to the exclusion of virtually everything else in his life.
  7. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Apr 11, 2013
    63
    The ambitious new biopic about Robinson, is better written and produced than those children’s books, but it isn’t any deeper, and that’s a disappointment.
  8. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Apr 11, 2013
    40
    What's been carefully filtered out of the film as a whole is the tumult and passion of Robinson's life.
  9. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Apr 11, 2013
    60
    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.
  10. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Apr 12, 2013
    63
    It takes a particularly ham-fisted filmmaker to transform a fascinating and historically significant story into something as formulaic as 42.
  11. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Apr 11, 2013
    75
    42 doesn't shirk from showing how daunting it was for Robinson to turn the other cheek, as Ford's Rickey tells him he must do, in the face of the insults and hostility.
  12. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Apr 10, 2013
    58
    The Jackie Robinson biopic 42 operates in a box inside of a box—and not the batter’s box, either, because that would imply it has some freedom to swing away. It’s thoroughly embalmed in the glossy lacquer of conventional baseball movies, and limited further by trying to deal with the horrors of racism in that context.
  13. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Apr 11, 2013
    60
    It is blunt, simple and sentimental, using time-tested methods to teach a clear and rousing lesson.
  14. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Apr 11, 2013
    63
    Treats its now-mythic Brooklyn Dodger with respect, reverence and love. But who's in there, underneath the mythology?
  15. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Apr 10, 2013
    50
    Pretty when it should be gritty and grandiosely noble instead of just telling it like it was, 42 needlessly trumps up but still can't entirely spoil one of the great American 20th century true-life stories, the breaking of major league baseball's color line by Jackie Robinson.
  16. Reviewed by: Rick Groen
    Apr 11, 2013
    63
    In the hallowed frames of 42, the legend is front and centre and still inspiring. Too bad the more interesting man is nowhere to be seen.
  17. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Apr 11, 2013
    75
    Harrison plays Rickey with a jutting jaw, squinting eye and hoarse bark straight out of the Irascible Old Coot playbook, his character constantly invoking God and the almighty dollar to justify what became known as Rickey’s “noble experiment.”
  18. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Apr 11, 2013
    100
    Boseman is watchful, winning and confident, but never saintly. Yet he keeps Robinson’s moral spine aligned with his skill and self-respect, showing how he needed all of those to succeed.
  19. 75
    Earnest, righteous, historically accurate and often entertaining.
  20. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Apr 10, 2013
    70
    Helgeland has given us an impressive introduction to one of the most important men in U.S. history. But you can’t help wanting more.
  21. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Apr 10, 2013
    50
    A relentlessly formulaic biopic that succeeds at transforming one of the most compelling sports narratives of the 20th century into a home run of hagiography.
  22. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Apr 11, 2013
    75
    The inspirational movie named for Robinson’s number is too dignified to throw audiences a curveball, let alone a knockdown pitch, but its solid fundamentals make it a winner.
  23. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Apr 12, 2013
    63
    And still 42 persists in entertaining you, even when you’re cringing, because the real story is so compelling.
  24. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Apr 11, 2013
    80
    The style of the film, lush and traditional, is nothing special, but the takeaway, a daily struggle for dignity, is impossibly moving.
  25. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Apr 12, 2013
    60
    Aesthetically, Helgeland's film -- while highly polished -- is straight-forward stuff, hewing so closely to the prescribed genre conventions as to border on unimaginative.
  26. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Apr 12, 2013
    83
    Spike Lee wanted for years to make a Jackie Robinson film, and I hope he still gets his chance. Another take, maybe angrier or more polemic, could be fascinating, and the heroism of Jackie Robinson was significant enough to justify more than a few movies.
  27. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Apr 15, 2013
    60
    Sixty-six years later, when a black man holds the Presidency, equality may still be, for some, unbearable, but Robinson abruptly moved America forward. 42, however limited at times, lays out the tortured early days of that advance with clarity and force.
  28. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Apr 10, 2013
    100
    One of the all-time great sports movies — primarily because it's one of the all-time great sports stories.
  29. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Apr 10, 2013
    50
    The film elevates the story of Jackie Robinson to that of cornball legend rather than just honoring his legitimately uplifting, heroic saga by telling it straight.
  30. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Apr 9, 2013
    75
    It’s a perfectly unexceptional but slickly made, sincerely acted, often entertaining, sometimes manipulative and always watchable blend of action on the diamond and bravery behind the scenes that will please baseball fanatics more than movie historians. It’s a good enough biopic to make you wish it were a better motion picture.
  31. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    Apr 11, 2013
    65
    A profile in real-life courage that would be stronger as a movie if it weren't quite so intent on underlining teachable moments.
  32. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    Apr 15, 2013
    60
    Boseman is not a hugely close physical match to Robinson, except for perhaps in the power he conveys, but he’s a great choice to play the ball player, unfamiliar enough, despite a decade of small credits here and there, to feel like an athlete, not a movie star playing one.
  33. Reviewed by: Alan Scherstuhl
    Apr 9, 2013
    40
    The movie sugars up Robinson's story, and like too many period pieces it summons some vague idea of a warmer, simpler past by bathing everything in thick amber light, as if each scene is one of those preserved mosquitoes that begat the monsters of Jurassic Park.
  34. Reviewed by: Gabe Toro
    Apr 10, 2013
    83
    42 is excessively retro, neglecting the urge to pepper scenes with comic relief or oppressing, flashy conflict.
  35. Reviewed by: Laremy Legel
    Apr 12, 2013
    75
    A kind and decent film, but doesn't add to Robinson's legacy.
  36. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    Sep 9, 2013
    60
    Already a hit in America, 42 is a well-told but square biopic doing justice to Jackie Robinson rather than exploring him.
  37. Reviewed by: Bilge Ebiri
    Apr 12, 2013
    60
    Helgeland’s epic about Jackie Robinson’s first year in Major League Baseball is uneven — often exciting, and just as often shallow and ham-handed — but if there’s one thing to which it remains true, it's that the almighty American greenback and the all-American athlete are the great destroyers of bigotry.
  38. Reviewed by: Richard Roeper
    Apr 10, 2013
    75
    42 is competent, occasionally rousing and historically respectful — but it rarely rises above standard, old-fashioned biography fare. It’s a mostly unexceptional film about an exceptional man.
  39. Reviewed by: Louis Black
    Apr 10, 2013
    67
    Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Beharie as Rachel Robinson both deliver terrific performances, and the cast of managers and ballplayers – are excellent. Harrison Ford plays Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey as a larger-than-life eccentric, seeming almost like a demented Orville Redenbacher at times.
User Score
7.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 167 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 48 out of 61
  2. Negative: 5 out of 61
  1. Apr 14, 2013
    3
    42. The biopic of Jackie Robinson. The story, while inspirational, seems like that was all it was. Now, this isn't necessarily the fault of the Director and Writer or anybody else involved with making this movie, but biopics are always set up to fail, whether it be the greatest biopic ever made, or the worst. They're all set to fail. But only the strong survive. This, however, wasn't strong. Ignoring the fact that throughout the entire duration of this movie, I felt like I was watching a TV movie, the story was a generic fallacy, which only covered a part of the legacy Jackie Robinson left behind. To get with the times, you must remember that back when Jackie Robinson was just starting with the, then Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, whites hated blacks. And if was a white sport, nobody wanted to do any business with blacks. Well, I get it. Those were the times, but it was the same ole generic response with the white folk is period movies like this, "I hate blacks!" or N****** ruin everything!" something of that tone. The tone of the movie felt bland and I wasn't emotionally invested into the movie as I should have. It was heavily corny at times, and wasn't as inspirational as the actual movie was. Disappointment was what I felt leaving that theater. Because a great, inspirational man's legacy was made a mockery of with this movie. Full Review »
  2. May 16, 2013
    10
    The Bottom Line
    A too self-consciously inspiring rendition of Jackie Robinson's genuinely inspiring accomplishment of breaking baseball's
    color barrier.

    Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford provide engaging performances as Jackie Robinson and Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in the Legendary/Warner Bros. drama about the man who broke MLB's color line. Pretty when it should be gritty and grandiosely noble instead of just telling it like it was, 42 needlessly trumps up but still can't entirely spoil one of the great American 20th century true-life stories, the breaking of major league baseball's color line by Jackie Robinson. Whether in the deep South or the streets of Brooklyn, life here looks spiffy and well-scrubbed enough to appear in a department store window, while the soaring musical accompaniment seems to be stamping all the protagonists' passports for immediate admission to that great ballpark in the sky. All the same, lead actors Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford cut through the artifice with engaging performances as Robinson and Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, respectively, and audiences who don't know much about the first black man to play professional baseball will be suitably impressed. Hit-starved Warner Bros. should be able to stir moderately good attendance domestically, although foreign prospects, as always with baseball yarns, are slight. The key scene in 42, just as it was in the low-budget 1950 The Jackie Robinson Story, which starred the ballplayer himself, comes when Rickey, warning his prospect about the abuse that inevitably awaits him, demands to know if he's “got enough guts not to fight back” when provoked by other players or fans. Robinson was not the best player in the Negro Leagues, but he was reckoned to be the one who might best withstand the trial by fire posed by teammates who didn't want to play with him and a society that often wouldn't allow him to travel, eat or lodge with the rest of the team. Needing a manageable window through which to dramatize a sports breakthrough fraught with racial, social, political and attitudinal meaning, this pet project of writer-director Brian Helgeland and producer Thomas Tull zeroes in on the years 1945-47, concluding with Robinson's first year in the majors. Although there is quick mention of a sports career at UCLA (which, the film does not note, had the most integrated sports program of any school in the U.S. at the time) and a quick temper that earned him an Army court-martial, the 26-year-old member of the American Negro League Kansas City Monarchs seems like the picture of rectitude, a well-spoken young man with a lovely wife-to-be, Rachel (Nicole Beharie), and none of the wild traits of some of his teammates. As one of the last century's most inspiring and literally game-changing personal sagas, Jackie Robinson's life can hardly help but be stirring and will no doubt impress many younger viewers, some of whom may be completely unfamiliar with his story. It's just too bad that Helgeland can't go for broke and get his uniform as dirty as Jackie Robinson used to do.
    Full Review »
  3. BKM
    Oct 9, 2013
    7
    It's extremely difficult to put Jackie Robinson's legacy into its proper perspective and for the most part 42 doesn't really try. Instead it is content to be a glossy, feel good sports story. If you can accept that, you'll find the film to be a genuinely entertaining and well acted biopic that tells an important story albeit in a less than urgent manner. Full Review »