42 depicts rise of an American legend

by Connor Danik
Premiering shortly after Major League Baseball’s opening day in April, director Brian Helgoland’s 42 focuses on Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player to compete in the MLB.  With a winning performance by Harrison Ford and a classic underdog story at its center, 42 is a rousing film that serves as a fitting tribute to one of baseball’s most celebrated players.
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The biographical sport film captures the journey that led Robinson to break the race barrier in professional baseball in 1947.
42 begins with Robinson’s early career with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League. It portrays the courage of executive manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to sign Robinson despite the disapproval of the baseball community.
The film highlights Robinson’s early career with the Dodgers’ minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals, and his successful rookie season with the Dodgers.
42 exhibits the racism and verbal abuse faced by Robinson. Actor Alan Tudyk portrays Ben Chapman, manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, who verbally abuses Robinson throughout the course of a game. The film shows how Robinson overcame his abuse by performing well on the field.
“My favorite part was how Jackie Robinson did not respond to harassment and acted like the bigger man,” said sophomore Matt Marino of Robinson’s ability to maintain a cool head.
Ford’s Branch Rickey steals the show as he balances the comedic one–liners and the heart in his relationship with Robinson. Ford’s performance has already spurred talk of a possible Best Supporting Actor nomination next year.
Chadwick Boseman, as Robinson, delivers a rather flat performance, barely revealing the layers of Robinson beyond his good-guy exterior. However, he exhibits the confidence and courage of Robinson’s actual personality as a man who refused to crumble under pressure.
An unexpected element of the film is the comedy. Ralph Branca, played by Hamish Linklater, is responsible for most of the laughs.
“Take a shower with me, Jackie,” he says to Robinson in a hilariously awkward scene.
The film opens with Branca’s disapproval of Robinson’s presence, but he comes to accept him as both a person and a teammate.
42 can be predictable,  with some scenes bordering on cliché.  After each encounter with racial abuse, Robinson seems   miraculously to hit home runs and defy his critics.
The film focuses on Robinson’s baseball career only from 1946 to 1947, and so merely scratches the surface of Robinson’s life.  For example, it doesn’t explore Robinson’s involvement in the civil rights movement or his public feud with Malcolm X.
Overall, the film gives a focused picture of Robinson’s entrance to baseball and the obstacles he had to overcome to succeed. As Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese says, “Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42,” foreshadowing the lasting impact that Jackie Robinson would have on American life.
“He has inspired so many young children, black and white, to go out and fulfill their dreams,” said sophomore Alex Skoog. “He has left his mark not only in the baseball world, but in the lives of so many people dealing with the same problems that he had to overcome.  After watching this movie, I think that Jackie Robinson is a hero.”