Warner Home Video announced this past week that writer/director Brian Helgeland’s Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, will be available to own as either a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack or as a stand-alone DVD SKU on July 16 (both editions include UltraViolet).
The ARR is a quick-to-market 95 days (timed to take advantage of the media hype surrounding this year’s All Star Game … which is also on July 16). Ticket sales at the local multiplex were a very solid $92.9 — an exceptional number for a sports biopic.
Helgeland, who won the Oscar for his riveting (and attention to detail) script for L.A. Confidential in 1998 and was also nominated for his screenplay adaptation of Mystic River in 2003, is likely to see his third Oscar nomination this year.
He does play a little fast and loose with some of the actual historical events (for dramatic purposes), but his script and resulting film gets to the core of the story about Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey breaking the baseball color barrier in 1947.
His screenplay focuses in on the immediate post-war period of 1946 and 1947, when Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers went shopping for the individual with both the skills and the emotional maturity to bring black baseball players into the major leagues. There were plenty of candidates in the “parallel” Negro Leagues to choose from in terms of ability, but Rickey correctly surmised that the racial taunts and bigotry of the day would be the real test for any black player stepping into the national spotlight.
Jackie Robinson, Army officer during World War II, college-educated and a four-sport athlete was the man that Rickey ultimately felt had the emotional skills to cope with what would be thrust upon him. 42 is that story.
To make this work, Helgeland needed two things. First, everything on the screen needed to feel authentic — Ebbets Field needed to be Ebbets Field of 1947. All of the uniforms needed to “feel” right for the period. The CGI, costuming and set decoration are all outstanding … time machine sort of stuff.
Second, the pivotal characters of this “passion play” had to hit all of the right notes. Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson is superb, with Harrison Ford the perfect counterpoint as Branch Rickey the showman to Robinson’s business-like demeanor.
Helgeland also picks a couple of key events to showcase in this well-constructed story. The Philly manager, Ben Chapman (played by Alan Tudyk), did more to advance race relations as a bigot of gigantic proportions (actual events early in the 1947 season) with his unrelenting sting of racial slurs than all of the well-meaning intellectuals of the period. In one series he managed to unite the Dodger team around Robinson … no human being, black or white, deserved to be subjected to such vile insults they reasoned.
The other nice touch is the Pee Wee Reese (played by Lucas Black) moment (also an actual event, but there is some historical debate as to whether this took place in 1947 or actually in 1948). In any case, legend has it that Cincinnati fans were taunting Robinson without mercy (pick a word, they said it), when suddenly Reese walked over to Robinson’s position at first base and put his arm around him … sort of a F*** You moment.
As to bonus features, the DVD includes the featurette titled “Stepping Into History,” while the Blu-ray SKU includes that one, plus two more — “Full-Contact Baseball” and “The Legacy of the Number 42.”
In other release news from Warner Home Video this week fans will find many of their favorite TV and cable series being released during the month of September.
Full seasons on Blu-ray and DVD of Vampire Diaries: The Complete Fourth Season, Person of Interest: The Complete Second Season and Revolution: The Complete First Season kick-off the parade on Sept. 3.
The following street-date Tuesday, Sept. 10, marks the arrival of Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season (both Blu-ray and DVD set) and a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack edition of Big Bang Theory: The Complete Sixth Season.
Sept. 17 is the street date for Arrow: The Complete First Season — on DVD and Blu-ray.
Also of note, Friday the 13th of September will be the release date for the 12-film Blu-ray collection of Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection (ten Blu-ray discs with a bonus DVD).
To download this week's complete edition of the DVD and Blu-ray Release Report: DVD & Blu-ray Release Report