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Jackie Robinson is one of the greatest baseball players of all time and perhaps one of the most influential as the first African-American person to play in the major leagues. His jersey number, 42, is the only number in baseball to be retired throughout Major League Baseball.

The biopic 42 chronicles Robinson’s transition into the Major Leagues and the barriers he faced merging into what was considered a white man’s game at the time. The 1940’s were a very different place with segregation running rampant across the country. Integrating baseball wouldn’t be an easy task.

The idea was first proposed by Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) who thought it would be a good idea to sign an African-American player to the Dodgers. While his intentions look pure on paper, the film clearly makes him appear to act only for the money involved. As Ford states in the film, baseball isn’t black or white, it’s green. This sentiment seems to be shared by many of the higher ups in the film. They don’t so much care about ending segregation as they do about the money it will bring them. It is only until later in the film that they aren’t so focused on the money and truly believe in the cause.

Chadwick Boseman stars as the talented Jackie Robinson and does a fantastic job portraying the legend that he is. Robinson shows crowds the kind of person that he is by his skill alone and doesn’t let the hatred he is shown get the best of him, at least not in public. Boseman can dramatically play both extremes, showcasing his skills one minute while spiraling into an emotional rage the next. It’s these moments where the film truly shines.

42 does a great job at running audiences through the whole gamut of emotions. It can easily make you feel uncomfortable, and it should. One particularly memorable scene has Alan Tudyk’s Ben Chapman spouting racial slurs at Robinson for a solid few minutes while he’s up at bat. It’s cringe worthy and the fact something similar to this probably happened in real life makes it all the more disturbing. At the same time, the film can also lighten the mood and make you laugh with its subtle humor. Everything comes together to make audiences root for Robinson to win even harder.

That being said, 42 feels like it only scratches the surface of Jackie Robinson’s struggles. Despite its impact, the story features cookie-cutter characters that rely too heavily on stereotypes to get a reaction rather than actual storytelling. It definitely works, although it just feels like the film could have done so much more.

Jackie Robinson is the definition of the term ‘legend’ in every aspect possible. The odds he overcame to become one of baseball’s greats will never be forgotten, and 42 captures the heart and spirit of him. The film doesn’t quite live up to being a legend itself, but it does the job well enough to give audiences a newfound appreciation of Robinson’s determination and skill to break down the barriers.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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