Cinderella Man (2005)
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Review Date: June 01, 2005
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Cliff Hollingsworth, Akiva Goldsman
Producers: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Penny Marshall
Russell Crowe as Jim
Renee Zellweger as Mae
Paul Giamatti as Joe
Based on the real life of Depression-era boxer James Braddock, this film follows the pugilist from his fall from grace and into the depths of poverty, to his second chance as an up-and-coming fighter, ready to return to the ring in the hopes of making some money and helping his wife and kids out of the poorhouse. What follows is Russell Crowe…boxing his ass off!
I understand that this film had two previous titles, both of which were said to be too “obvious”, so they changed it to the current one. The first was IT SUCKS TO BE POOR, a perfect moniker for the entire beginning sections of this movie, while the second was SEABISCUIT 2: WE REPLACED THE HORSE WITH AN IRISH BOXER…ENJOY!, but it was apparently a little too long for the marquee. All that to say that despite this film telling a competent true-life tale about a down-and-out man and his family during the Depression, directed competently by Ron Howard, acted competently by Russell Crowe and putting together a number of competent boxing sequences, it ultimately didn’t pull me into its emotional side, as the lame acting by screech/cry actress Renee Zellweger simply bored me as the routine wife (mind you, she’s not helped with such lines as “You’re the champion of my heart”) and the completely predictable plotline never offered any real obstacles in order for me to truly invest myself in this man’s journey. As it stands, I certainly gave a shit about Braddock because the basic idea behind his tale was a sad one and Crowe’s performance was pretty good as the down-and-out fighter (although I’m not sure about his young Mickey Rourke accent, but alas…), but once things got into the whole “woe is us” area, I just couldn’t help but remain distant from it all, since the film’s trailer and promotion (and its similarity to many movies of its sort) just didn’t allow me to really buy into their unfortunate situation, since I pretty much knew where the film was going after that (even SEABISCUIT gave us the whole “blind” angle out of left field).

Truly, the movie offered zero surprises or real obstacles along the way, so even though everything in the movie looked authentic, its pacing was never dull and the boxing sequences were energetic and fun (with a great turn by Craig Bierko…I love that guy…give him more parts!!), at the end of the day, I don’t think many audience members will be taken aback by much of what occurs in this movie, hence the lack of emotional investment—at least, from my part. That said, I wasn’t completely out of the film, as a couple of scenes did touch me, as the film’s score, and the surprising directing by Howard, managed to pull me into a few sequences, but I certainly wasn’t standing up in my seat and hollering for Braddock during the film’s final (and quite elongated) fight. Even Giamatti, who’s great as the cornerman with the million-and-one one-liners, was a little too predictable with his comebacks, and a subplot with Paddy Considine is sadly, underdeveloped. All that said, I’m still scoring the film pretty high because ultimately I was entertained, enjoyed Crowe’s performance, as well as the film’s music, look and feel, and Zellweger wasn’t in the film too much to annoy me. I don’t see how anyone could actually “hate” a movie like this, since it’s based on a true-life inspirational tale that comes across very well, but ultimately, for someone like myself, I appreciate films with a little more diversity, originality and surprise, much of which, this movie simply did not have (unlike flashbulbs, of which it had way too many!). It should also have been released in the fall, not the summer.

Note: Director Ron Howard’s dad, Rance, and brother, Clint, both have small roles as a ring announcer and a referee in this film, respectively.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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