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Cinderella Man
DVD disk
Dec 28, 2005 By: Jason Coleman
Cinderella Man order
Director:
Ron Howard

Actors:
Russell Crowe
Renee Zellweger
Paul Giamatti

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Average man Jim Braddock goes from being a top boxer, to having to beg for change, to then being back on top again. A true story of one manís determination and how far he will go to take care of his family, no matter what the cost.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Last time Russell Crowe and Director Ron Howard got together, they produced the very interesting and thought provoking drama A BEAUTIFUL MIND. This time around, the two have collaborated on a film that should have had even more emotional potential; the real life story of Jim Braddock, a boxer who climbed his way to the top not once, but twice in order to take care of his family. But what should be a sure fire hit for the pair, isnít. The ďinspirationalĒ story here is so completely masked in long and drawn out moments, that itís literally a needle in a haystack; you have to really look to find it. The direction and pacing by Howard is off and the film didnít even begin to have any kind of inspirational feel till the one hour mark. (Death in a film of this type!) The scenes of boxing are nothing new (is anything after RAGING BULL?), so itís key to have other scenes bring something new to the table. This filmís table is (with the exception of a few crumbs) almost barren. And at a two and a half hour long running time, someone at the table is going hungry, because this is not Ronís best work.

As far as performances go, this is not exceptional work from anyone, but merely feels like people going through the motions. Crowe, so powerful and brilliant in previous works, relies too heavily on the story to carry him through, not giving anything fresh or unique to the character of Braddock. Renee Zellweger, who plays Croweís wife, has no chemistry with her on screen hubby and is reduced to a forgettable wife role we know and donít love. And finally there is Croweís trainer, played by quirky character actor Paul Giamatti, who after such stellar performances in films like PRIVATE PARTS, AMERICAN SPLENDOR, and SIDEWAYS, is given nothing to work with here. His on screen time is minimal and dry and the film definitely suffers because of it. Films of this nature need to have all their beats in place (just look at ROCKY or the aforementioned RAGING BULL) in order to get the most minimal effect to an already weary audience. But itís really the stuff you add after, the original and truly affecting bits that turn an ordinary biopic into an extraordinary one. This film has less than a handful and itís just not enough. Win, lose or draw, CINDERELLA MAN, in my opinion, goes down early and stays down for the count.
THE EXTRAS
There is not just one, but three full length commentaries here - one by Director Howard and two separate by writers Akiva Goldsman and Cliff Holligsworth. Why couldnít the writers get together for the session, or better yet, both go in on a three way discussion with Director Howard? The word here is excess and without any actor commentary, Iím will to bet that Iím the only one who sat through all three of these.

Side One:

Commentary (with Director Ron Howard): Director Howard does talk a lot, but itís mostly much ado about nothing. He talks basics, about the story, the real life Braddock, and how hard his actors worked. (Were there ever any actors who were just plain lazy?) Small technical talk about how he staged different fights provides a little insight, but itís scarce. At least thereís not a whole lot of ass kissing, although Zellweger gets a lot of Howardís flattery. Best moment - when Howard boldly states that heís ďnot crazy about lifting the curtain and ruining the illusionĒ before letting the audience in on the fact that he gave actors computer generated breath during a cold scene. (Wow, donít get too revealing there Ron!) Isnít being candid and informative what these damn commentaries are for?!

Commentary (with Writer Akiva Goldsman): Goldsman starts off his commentary by letting the uneducated know that ďthis is the Universal Logo and this is the Miramax logoĒ. Wow, he really is a genius. (And definitely needed his own commentary!) Then he proceeds to pause and watch for a while. Huh? This one has nothing that any fledging screenwriter would find remotely interesting and Goldsman himself is drab and has a knack for pointing out the obvious. It was almost like spending two plus hours with my ninety year old Grandmother, who seems like Quentin Tarantino on acid compared to Goldsman.

Commentary (with Writer Cliff Holligsworth): Cliff on the other hand, is very reflective and candid about what was changed from his original screenplay, including the title of The Cinderella Man (which Braddock was actually called) to Cinderella Man and, if you really listen, appears to be slightly miffed. This guy deserves his own commentary and has insight into the story that script doctor Goldsman doesnít. Keep your chin up Cliff!

Side Two:

Deleted Scenes With Commentary by Director Ron Howard (21:00): This one starts off with Howard talking right away, before you can even choose to watch these with or without his commentary. (Itís a first and very weird Ė I though my DVD player was broken!) None of these are exactly ground breaking, cut for timing and impact, but a little Giamatti goes a long way. Commentary on these deleted and extended scenes is a little lag and Howard seems to be watching rather then talking. Wakey, wakey Ron!

The Fight Card: Casting Cinderella Man (22:58): Basically a large interview with Howard, talking about everything, not just casting. The footage of Russell Crowe here is from a press junket and at 22 minutes running time, they could have gotten a new interview. (They did for everyone else!) Lazy. When Casting Director Jane Jenkins talks, it get more interesting and topical, but this one is just too damn long. (And is it just me or is Producer Brian Grazerís hair more out of control than ever?!)

The Man, The Movie, The Legend: A Filmmaking Journey (14:02): Finally we get to see pictures of the real life characters of Jim and his wife. Everyone in this one explains the story and why itís the second coming. If youíre a huge fan of this film, youíll find this one interesting. I was just happy that this was shorter then the casting featurette.

For The Record: A History In Boxing (6:40): A conversation with boxing consultant Angelo Dundee could have been a real interesting history lesson, but instead has Dundee talking about how great Russell Crowe is, a damn shame.

Ringside Seats (9:11): The Filmmakers sit down with Norman Mailer, who gives up his knowledge of boxing. This is intercut with the actual fight footage of Braddock vs. Max Baer, providing a very interesting and entertaining mini-doc.

Jim Braddock: The Friends and Family Behind The Legend (11:12): A very interesting look at the real life Braddock, his wife and Manager Joe, through audio and video clips and family recollections. Very engaging.

Kodak Cinderella Man Gallery (2:04): A super cheesy commercial for Kodak, this is the stuff that keeps us from watching these films on TV and renting DVDís! (Thank god for the chapter skip button!)

I think itís strange that everyone here, seemingly excited about the film, would give full and new interviews for this DVD release, except for Russell Crowe. Word to the wise Russell - if you like the film, you really should come out and support it, or it starts to look suspect.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
As a boxing film, CINDERELLA MAN gets knocked out. A great and seemingly inspiring story gets trapped in the corner of the ring by too many drab parts, mediocre performances, and not enough of those quaint moments that could make a film like this special. Sorry Ron and Russell, A BEAUTIFUL MIND this isnít. (NIGHT SHIFT 2 anyone?)
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