42 Review
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A new baseball season is once again upon us. And as hopeful fans return to the ballpark to cheer their favorite team to victory, I can’t think of a better time to celebrate one of the sport’s most beloved, ground-breaking heroes with a crowd-pleasing biopic like director Brian Helgeland’s 42.

42 chronicles the remarkable, history-making story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). The film opens in the summer of 1945, when Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) approaches the outspoken Kansas City Monarchs shortstop and offers him a chance to play for the Dodgers’ minor league affiliate in Montreal. The offer comes with one condition: Robinson must agree to keep his temper in check as he deals with the ignorance and racism that he will inevitably encounter.

  
 
The film then follows Robinson’s journey as, under Rickey’s watchful eye, he goes from minor league star to major league hopeful to Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman—all the while facing hatred and opposition with remarkable strength.

While most genres have their share of hits and misses, there’s just something about inspirational sports dramas that will get you every time. It doesn’t matter how many of these formulaic films you’ve seen in the past. It doesn’t matter how blatantly manipulative they may be. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a sports fan. When the crowd starts cheering and the lovable underdog finally gets his moment of greatness, you just can’t help but get caught up in the excitement of it all. And that’s definitely true of this baseball bromance.

42 fits neatly into the usual sports drama mold. It has a charming hero whose talent and determination help him defy the odds to succeed—even when so many others wanted him to fail. And Boseman handles the role well, showing both Robinson’s private pain and the strength and poise with which he publicly handled the hostility that he faced on a daily basis. Fortunately, he isn’t forced to handle it on his own—and just as Robinson was surrounded by supporters who wanted him to succeed, the film is filled with lovable supporting characters, from his fellow teammates to Ford’s Rickey. While Ford’s role as the curmudgeonly baseball executive is often played to humorous extremes, he still gives the character enough heart to make him admirable. And even Alan Tudyk steps up to play an absolutely deplorable character—Phillies manager Ben Chapman—in a way that makes him appropriately (and even enjoyably) comical.

The story, of course, is no big surprise. If you know anything about baseball, you know how it turns out for Jackie. Along the way, the film is filled with manipulative little moments, carefully designed to make audiences feel outraged or excited or inspired. Still, even if you can see right through the often calculated drama, it’s all extremely effective. When Jackie gets his moment to shine, your heart will swell—and you’ll want to join the crowds in cheering him on.

Baseball fans won’t want to miss this moving look at the life of a legend. But even if you’re bored by the very thought of baseball, you’ll find that there’s nothing boring about this inspirational biopic. It’s such a crowd-pleaser, in fact, that it might inspire you to round up the family and take them out to the ball game.


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