42 is a winner on and off the field

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Emma Rosenberg and Emily Polk, Contributing Writers

42 is based on the true story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American professional baseball player.  The movie shows the lengths Robinson went to prove his worth.  Jackie took whatever curve balls those opposed to racial integration threw at him because he had the “guts not to fight back.” It’s that aspect of Robinson that makes his story so interesting and pretty entertaining.

The story follows Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) at the start of his baseball career when he is asked by Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the team executive to join the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Branch first tells Robinson that the only reason he’s been asked to join the team is because of his ability to hit a ball well, which means big money.  However, it is quite clear that money isn’t the only reason Branch wants Robinson on the team—Branch wants him because of his love for the game of baseball.  He and Robinson share a meaningful connection throughout the film because they both share a great love for America’s favorite pastime.  It’s that connection that keeps us most involved and interested for the two hours of this movie.

The movie spends a great deal of time focusing on the racism that was prevalent in the ‘40s, which feels excessive.  Maybe it’s because we’ve seen one too many movies about white people being extensively nasty to black people, but whenever we see a white man shout the n-word at Robinson, we aren’t phased in the slightest.  It could also be because it feels relatively over the top whenever anyone does it.  One character in the film is based upon the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.  In the film he chants the n-word repeatedly when Robinson goes up to bat, but in the most ridiculous way imaginable.  The scene comes off as being a lot more silly than it is threatening—it’s hard to imagine anyone actually being offended by it.

We also never really get the sense of who Jackie Robinson was.  The movie portrays him as more of a legend than a person.  It’s kind of weird when you learn more about a time period than a person in a biopic.  The dialogue given to him is very minimal; there’s more dialogue given to the racist baseball spectators than there is to Robinson himself.  It makes it difficult to ever connect with him on a level that would bring about any sort of emotion other than awe because of his incredible achievements. We’re constantly reminded by other characters in the movie that Robinson is a hero, and that he’s an inspiration to everyone, while never giving us the chance to find out who he is as a person.

The performances are fine all around, Boseman is good as Robinson and Ford is alright as Branch Rickey.  Their relationship is the one human aspect that this movie has going for it, and probably the only part of the film that will invoke any sort of real emotion.  No matter how distant you feel from getting to know Robinson, his story is interesting enough to allow for an entertaining two hours.