Jackie Robinson: My Story (Shout! Factory, NR)

dvd jackie-robinsonJackie Robinson fails to make use of most of the creative and dramatic possibilities available in the medium of film.

 

If good intentions and a worthy subject were enough to make a documentary worth your while, then Jackie Robinson: My Story would be on everyone’s must-see list. Unfortunately, this film fails on almost all counts, and that’s a real shame, because Robinson was not just a star baseball player, but also an important figure in the American Civil Rights movement.

Jackie Robinson fails to make use of most of the creative and dramatic possibilities available in the medium of film. Instead, it seems to be a recorded version of a one-man play, with Stephen Hill portraying Robinson and telling his life story directly to the camera, a narration regularly intercut with archival footage illustrating whatever he is talking about at the moment. And by “portraying,” I mean dressing in part of a baseball uniform, standing in front of a set resembling a locker room (with a uniform bearing #42 on display, of course), and occasionally wearing an old-style baseball glove or posing with a bat.

The narrated story is illustrated with news clips and other historical footage, many of which you’ve seen before if you know anything at all about the subject or the historical period, and some of which are of amazingly poor quality. Seriously: Clips from the Vietnam War so washed out you can barely tell what is going on? The only way I can explain that is to assume that the filmmakers were too lazy to look for better footage—or too cheap to pay for access to it.

The most amazing thing about Jackie Robinson is how bad the recorded footage of Hill is. He’s basically standing in one place and speaking directly to the camera, and yet the lighting is terrible and the video quality looks like something shot 20 years ago, when low-resolution images were acceptable because that was all that the best available technology could provide.

On the plus side, there’s a lot of good information packed into the script by Marino Amoruso, who also directed this film. I learned a few things about Robinson’s life and times from this film, and I’m sure young people, who are probably less familiar with this history, would learn even more—if they didn’t fall asleep first. | Sarah Boslaugh

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