The easy-lay critics will give it a pass and general audiences rarely consider quality issues, but Brian Helgeland‘s 42 (Warner Bros., 4.12) is apparently in trouble with discerning types. The period baseball biopic has encountered two dismissive reviews out of the gate with Variety‘s Scott Foundas and The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy calling it too self-consciously mythical by half.
“All that effort to get funding and then the rewrites and shooting hassles and post-production struggles and we’re finally about to open and wham…pans from Foundas and McCarthy! This fist is for them!”
McCarthy writes that 42 is guilty of “hyperbole and unnecessary inflation that infects the film as a whole. Rather than letting its hero’s accomplishments and behavior speak for themselves, Helgeland hammers home every achievement and then puts a halo around it, as if anyone won’t get it otherwise. [The film is] pretty when it should be gritty and grandiosely noble instead of just telling it like it was.
“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.”
Foundas calls it “thick with canned inspirationalism and heroic platitudes, but only occasionally pushing past the iconic to grapple with the real human drama of Robinson’s life. 42 [is] 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.
“[It] remains largely on the surface of things, pitting its Robinson (relative newcomer Chadwick Boseman) against a succession of cartoonish racists and Southern good-old-boys who are either softened by the first baseman’s towering nobility, or completely drowned out by composer Mark Isham’s incessant fanfares.”