Cinderella Man

"OK"

Cinderella Man Review


Tickets to Ron Howard's period boxing drama Cinderella Man should come with bootstraps. That way we literally could join the film's heavyweight hero, dutifully played by Russell Crowe, as he sifts through the wreckage left by bill collectors and broken bones to climb his way out of Dickens-level poverty and see the light at the end of his personal tunnel of despair.

American audiences adore underdog stories, particularly those tied to sports. From Rocky to Seabiscuit, we devour worthy longshots given a chance to reclaim such precious commodities as pride, significance, or the undying love of family. That, and anything with Darth Vader in it.

There's no Sith in Cinderella, but there's plenty of pedigreed talent eager to tell the phoenix-from-the-ashes tale of Depression-era boxing champ James J. Braddock (Crowe), dubbed the Cinderella Man for his uncanny run of victories in the ring against mismatched opponents.

Howard, who teamed with Crowe for the Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind, opens his film with a confident hand, guiding us through the boxer's back story. Braddock enjoyed early success but lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929. It was the start of the man's lengthy sob story, elongated by gratuitous embellishments screenwriter Akiva Goldsman unnecessarily adds for drama.

Around the time of the crash, the boxing commission revokes Braddock's license because he dogs his fights. He's nursing a broken wrist but won't tell the authorities because he needs the cash. He can't feed his kids, and his wife Mae (a comically mopey Renée Zellweger, using an imperfect vaudeville Jersey accent) can't pay the family's bills.

With the help of manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti, always good), Braddock earns an invitation back to the ring in 1934, where he goes on an unlikely winning streak. The other boxers that dare to go toe-to-toe with a hungry Braddock (in every sense of the word) simply do not have as much to fight for. The optimistic pugilist's grit and determination all but guaranteed victory, right up until his 1935 title fight against dominant heavyweight champ Max Baer (Craig Bierko, as smug as he should be).

What can be said? Howard's a fine filmmaker who cranks out a fine film and nothing more. Cinderella cannot, as a whole, match the intensity of the title fight it builds to. It represents meat-and-potatoes moviemaking. There's no spice, so we fill our bellies on story and presentation. Needless trips outside the ring steal the central story's thunder. Braddock's already lengthy comeback bloats with meandering subplots involving Jim's drunken Irish compatriot (Paddy Considine) and the man's troubles at home. The embellishments that continue coming in the final act demolish the inherent sense of feel-good underdog glee, but by then we're hooked so we await the inevitable.

It's not Crowe's best work by a long shot. For the first time, the dependable actor fails to convince me that he's the only one who could play this part. Mel Gibson in his prime would be perfect for Braddock. Zellweger's Chicago co-star, John C. Reilly, might have brought a welcome sorrow to the film's Depression era segments.

Some will argue that Cinderella must contend with the fresh memory of Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning opus, Million Dollar Baby, even though Baby - a much better movie in its own right - had more to do with a trainer's salvation than it did with a boxer's redemption. If anything, Cinderella apes the aforementioned Rocky series, lifting bits and pieces from all five installments. Zellweger models Mae after Talia Shire in the first two films (watch her suffer through her husband's brain-bashing bouts for similar reactions). A pre-fight encounter at a posh eatery between Braddock and Baer sounds just like Clubber Lang bullying Rocky to get in the boxer's head. Baer even hits on Braddock's wife. I begged for Baer to shout in his best Mr. T voice, "Why don't you get with a real man," or "I pity the fool," but he didn't. Yet another disappointment from a film that had the makings of a masterpiece.

We're betting on the little one.



Cinderella Man

Facts and Figures

Run time: 144 mins

In Theaters: Friday 3rd June 2005

Box Office USA: $61.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $108.5M

Budget: $88M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Imagine Entertainment, Parkway Pictures (I), Universal Pictures, Miramax Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 167 Rotten: 42

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Jim Braddock, as Mae Braddock, as Joe Gould, as Max Baer, as Mike Wilson, as Jimmy Johnston, David Huband as Ford Bond, as Jay Braddock, as Rosemarie Braddock, Patrick Louis as Howard Braddock, as Sara Wilson, as Lucille Gould, as Sporty Lewis, Gene Pyrz as Jake, Chuck Shamata as Father Rorick

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.