Harrison Ford has always been a thief.
On the screen.
In "Star Wars," Han Solo was on the run for nefarious deeds from the moment we met him. In the "Indiana Jones" universe, we first see Mr. Jones as he steals a priceless artifact and is almost bowled over for it.
Not that Ford did anything wrong. This is my guess as to what happened: Writer-director Brian Helgeland had a modest budget for a film filled with capable but non-starring actors. Then, lo and behold, Harrison Ford's people call and say Harrison is interested in the role of Branch Rickey, the man who hired Robinson with the aim of elevating him to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Helgeland is so delighted that he can't help but emphasize the superstar as he films.
By the time the flick has been edited and released, Ford is at least the co-star with Chadwick Boseman, who portrays Robinson with almost too much composure and dignity. At the very start, Robinson is told by Rickey that he must suppress his anger — sucking 90 percent of the potential energy from the film and robbing Boseman of the chance to make it his own.
Having said that, is the movie any good?
And, full disclosure, please consider that you are talking to a man who laughed at "The Natural," gagged at "Field of Dreams" and believes "Rudy" is the worst sports movie ever.
Again, any good?
Oh, it wants to be good. It tries so hard. The film drips sincerity. The acting is solid and Boseman should have numerous leading roles ahead. But it is so old-fashioned, not just in its 1947 appearance but in its Hollywood by-the-numbers sports hero story. You have seen this film a dozen times except the hero was always white before.
While the film bends over to avoid showing anything worse about Robinson than an edgy temper at the start, which he immediately learns to control simply because Rickey tells him that he must, it eventually does him a disservice by not really telling us anything about him. And because Rickey (Ford, remember?) gets all the good lines, you sit there and can't help but wonder if this story is more about the white businessman than the black baseball player.
They called it "42" — Robinson's immortalized number — but the film never manages to amount to that.
Leftover notes scribbled in the theater:
• The flick ignores statistics, not bothering to tell us that Robinson hit .297 with a dozen home runs as a rookie. More important, he led the league with 29 stolen bases.
• It's got typical syrupy strings as the primary musical score although not as bad as that Masters music we had to endure this week.
• Scenes are supposed to take place in Daytona Beach and Sanford, although they were not shot in this state.
• Christopher Meloni is amusing as banned manager Leo Durocher, one of the most interesting (and naughty) sports figures I ever met. Underrated Lucas Black has one terrific scene as Pee Wee Reese. And the baseball action scenes are believable.
• Not sure if it was how the flick was lighted or the theater's camera or my eyesight, but the entire film seemed too gray, which tends to damper enthusiasm.
Out of five bags of popcorn, it gets 2.5 bags mostly for sincerity.