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 Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Advertisement
Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Subtitled Salazar's Revenge in the UK, this fifth film in the long-running series never quite...

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.