2005
Rated: PG-13 for intense violence, adult language, and adult themes.
Genre: Biographical Sports Drama Romance
Directed By: Ron Howard
Running Time: 2:24
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 6/5/05
DVD Features:
Not Announced.
CINDERELLA MAN

 

I'll admit, I had many many reservations about watching this movie. The trailer was horrible filled with sappy moments that just screamed "We want an Oscar" and made it look like a clone of "Seabiscuit", but then I had a chance to catch an early screening and I figured "What the hell?" I went to see this with my little brother who is admittedly a fan of only action films and never likes dramas, and he was put off by this in the beginning, but in the end we both left the theaters raving non-stop about how utterly amazing this was. As I left the theater, the crowd I saw this with were all discussing enthusiastically how excellent this was.

After watching this and having time to soak up the emotions and my thoughts behind it, I can safely say this is one of the best boxing movies I've ever seen, and I've seen the best of the best from "Raging Bull" to "Rocky". This film just set off so many sirens from me all at once, but the main siren was the final justification that Russell Crowe is without a doubt one of the best actors to come along in years. This man has starred in a few movies and yet has managed to carve out a truly excellent filmography and he should be proud of for starring in an utterly amazing masterpiece and for giving another truly excellent performance.

"Cinderella Man" is the rags to riches to rags to riches true life tale of James Braddock an up and coming fighter who was struck hard by the great depression becoming a scrub in the ring, but when he gets the chance to re-claim his life by boxing the powerful champion Max Baer, he discovers his journey to become a champion will also bring hope to a nation of blue-collared depression stricken workers who seek hope in him. This is a film that will leave a smile on your face as it did for me, and as uplifting underdog tales go, this is one of the best. Director Howard teams yet again with star Russell Crowe for this simple but epic tale of James Braddock. Howard has the chance to milk every possible scene in this movie showcasing some amazing special effects, but he doesn't.

Throughout the entire movie it's all about simplicity, it's all about the small things that end up making this a much bigger tale thus it demands excellence from its cast who make this epic with their performances. Howard excels at authenticity through its hazy atmosphere of the thirties, and stunning choreography during the fight scenes that just are so different in tone from the tale of Braddock the man to Braddock the athlete. Everyone here is just great and fitting in their performances and top the movie off with icing on the cake. Crowe is very believable as an old time boxer with the old school training and is very genuine as both boxer and family man. The film reaches down with pure human emotions involving family and surviving through the depression, and the film touches on that many times ending up with some truly heartbreaking scenes, including much of his interaction with his children.

The movie is basically split up in two halves, one involving his boxing career and the other his family life, both of which never meet but go hand in hand for his survival in life. I admittedly got teary eyed especially during one scene where James is speaking to his oldest son, and while the movie does tend to get temperamental, it never really manipulates your emotions, because it doesn't have to. Paddy Considine who gave a painfully overlooked performance in "In America" is great as James' buddy John who, though playing a miniscule role in the story, ends up playing a big role in James' motivation, Paul Giamatti (give this guy an Oscar already, ya hacks!!) gives yet another great performance as Jimmy's devoted and loyal trainer Joe Gould who dug up Jimmy during his lowest and brought him back in to the ring.

Giamatti's disgruntled nature is very understated throughout the movie and his shtick is never present because he gives a genuine performance and becomes a great emotional support for Jimmy in his life. Crowe and Giamatti have unflinching chemistry and become a thrill to watch on-screen. The most surprising turn, though, is Craig Bierko. Who's Craig Bierko, you ask? He's a comedy actor who is actually a really funny guy but he takes a surprisingly dramatic turn as Jimmy's antagonist Max Baer, a gigantic and powerful boxer who manages to put some fear in Jimmy and in the audience. Bierko is really great here and should get a nod if there is any justice in the world, the one scene in the dining room with Crowe should be enough to gain him one, and then there's Russell Crowe who steals this movie from his startling resemblance to the real Braddock, to his humble mannerisms and genuine technique, Crowe pulls in yet another great performance. Is there anything this man can't do when teamed with the right director? Through it all, "Cinderella Man" should be taken at face value as an inspirational tale for the working man to invoke hope in its audience, and it does the job.

Come on. Rusty, Renee, Ronny, Paul, come on, let's all be honest with each other here. This movie was made and manufactured for the sole purpose of winning Oscars. It was, it is, and it's so obvious from beginning to end, so you feel manipulated watching a movie that just wants basically the adoration of the Academy whom will surely nominate the
obvious people and forget the others. Let's not kid ourselves, your goals are apparent to basically anyone with a keen eye, and whether it pays off or not next year will tell if your efforts worked. As for the performances I just couldn't warm up to Zellweger. She's cold here, and often times I just couldn't believe her as a depression-era struggling family woman. Her
look was too clean cut and modern for her to believable in any respects as a poor woman and she's really the only performance I couldn't accept. As for the story, it's routine and basically derivative, so there's nothing really new that I thought would be copied later on. The fight scenes are reminiscent of "Raging Bull" to a great extent, and the story is very predictable especially to anyone who knows about James Braddock's story by heart, so it takes away any suspense or anticipation we might want for the film.

Though occasionally derivative and with its makers intentions as clear as day (Oscar, anyone?), it was hard for me not to love this movie in spite of it all. Beautifully acted, beautifully directed, and a heartbreaking and uplifting story that will leave a smile on your face, this is a masterpiece, there's no doubt about it.

  • In spite of critical acclaim the family of Max Baer were distraught by his portrayal as an ego maniacal jerk when Baer was said to have been a kind hearted family man.
  • Russell Crowe turned down the chances to play Morpheus in "The Matrix" and Aragorn in "Lord of the Rings" which he turned down in favor of "A Beautiful Mind".
  • Yep, there's director Howard's little brother Clint showing up yet again as a referee, and his father Rance as an announcer. Nepotism is a brutal game, though I'd happily marry Ron's daughter Bryce.
  • Originally set to be directed by Lasse Halstrom.
  • Boxer Max Baer was father of "Beverly Hillbillies" Star Max Baer Jr.
  • Prediction: This movie will garner many Oscar nods, but hardly any wins.
  • For authenticity Crowe trained and learned using the boxing methods of that time instead of modern boxing methods.

 

 

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