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Overall Rating
3.85

Awesome: 23.53%
Worth A Look56.62%
Average: 2.94%
Pretty Bad: 15.44%
Total Crap: 1.47%

13 reviews, 58 user ratings


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Cinderella Man
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The feel-nothing film of the summer!"
2 stars

Ron Howard’s “Cinderella Man” comes to theaters billed as this summer’s token “Quality” film–a relatively serious-minded drama that will serve as counter-programming to the avalanche of movies aimed at teens and younger that are clogging the multiplexes. (In the past, this slot has been taken by the likes of “Saving Private Ryan,” “Road to Perdition” and “Seabiscuit.”) As a result, many will no doubt praise it simply because it actually tells a story that is more than just a clothesline on which to hang a group of car chases and explosions. However, the dirty little secret of the film is that, for all of its pretenses of grandeur (such as the trailers that remind us of how many Oscars the people behind it have won over the years), it is actually just as formulaic and one-dimensional as any of the trashier films currently playing. It tries to be a feel-good epic showing the triumph of the human spirit but does so in such an aggressively bland manner that it winds up coming off more as a feel-nothing film.

The film opens in 1928 with boxer Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) sitting on the top of the world–he is in line for the championship and has made a prosperous life for himself, adorable wife Mae (Renee Zellweger) and his equally adorable brood. Unfortunately, his less-than-successful left costs him the title and the stock market crash wipes out all of his savings. When we next see Braddock, he is desperately trying to keep a roof over the heads of his family by struggling to find day jobs at the local dockyards by day and by appearing in a series of increasingly ugly and unprofitable bouts by night. One night, he goes on despite a broken right hand and the resulting brawl is so shabby that the local boxing commissioner (Bruce McGill) revokes Braddock’s license to fight.

A few months later, Braddock is still struggling on the docks until his loyal former manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) comes by with an offer–a fighter is needed for a throwaway bout against a boxer who is in line for a title shot and Braddock, who still has a little name recognition, is a more appealing candidate on the basis that a slightly-known palooka is better on a marquee than an unknown palooka. Braddock has no illusions of winning–his only concern is for the $150 that he will receive–and is just as astonished as everyone else in the arena when he winds up making short work of the contender. It seems that by favoring his unbroken left hand while doing his work on the docks, he has strengthened it to the point where his former liability has now become one of his key assets. Even more improbably, he restarts his boxing career and finds himself battling against all odds to a championship bout against the fearsome future sire of Jethro Bodine, Max Baer (Craig Bierko) while simultaneously becoming a hero to a nation filled with disenfranchised people rooting for the triumph of one of their own over adversity. (That’s right–Howard has essentially made a film about the one man whose life was arguably improved by the Depression.)

The central flaw of “Cinderella Man” is the simple fact that I never believed any of it for a single moment. I know it is based on a true story and, for all I know, every incident in this film may have actually happened to Braddock. The problem is that Howard and writers Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman (the latter previously collaborated with Howard and Crowe on “A Beautiful Mind”) have taken all of the darkness and rough edges out of the material and transformed it into the kind of bland, offensively sentimental melodrama that has been seen in a hundred different movies and which doesn’t feel authentic for a second. Braddock is painted as a near-saint while Baer, when we finally see him, is depicted with all the subtlety of the Mr. T character in “Rocky III”–hell, he even gets to deliver pretty much the same line to Mae about coming to visit him to see what a “real man” is like.

More damaging is the fact that there is never any trace of the pain, shame or struggle that these characters must have gone through in real life.The boxing scenes are long but carry no visceral impact. The Depression milieu is equally unconvincing–Zellweger goes through the entire film looking like the most impeccably coiffed cinematic victim of poverty in recent memory. Hell, Howard even stoops to giving us the site of an adorable urchin holding out an empty plate and asking for more. There is never a moment when Howard allows us to figure out what we are supposed to be feeling for ourselves–he always underlines his scenes with such unnecessary elements as inspirational speeches, bewilderingly specific commentary from the ringside announcers and a moment at Madison Square Garden which is supposed to be moving but will, I fear, inspire laughter from anyone who has seen more than one Adam Sandler film.

It’s a shame because “Cinderella Man” has the kind of talent that could pull off such a story without adding on the hard-sell sentiment. Crowe is convincing in the ring scenes and has the chops to play a darker, more complex character but is stuck playing a version of Braddock that is almost insufferably noble. Zellweger is also a wonderful performer but she is wasted in a part that gives her nothing to do but fret while scrunching up her face. Howard is also capable of interesting work when he strips away the sentiment, as he did in “Ransom” and “The Missing,” but, no doubt chastened by the commercial failure of the latter, has gone back to the sentimental slop that brought him Oscar gold with “A Beautiful Mind.” The only person here who is working up to par is Giamatti–while it may seem to be a bit of a comedown to play the supporting sidekick after the back-to-back triumphs of “American Splendor” and “Sideways,” his ability to navigate his scenes without getting swamped by the sentiment makes his every appearance a blessed relief.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12400&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/03/05 13:58:06
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User Comments

6/22/10 Monday Morning Like Seabiscuit with two legs. Love the uplifting story - we need it now. 4 stars
12/19/09 Jeff Wilder Rocky with better acting. Million Dollar Baby/Raging Bull it's not. Still good. 4 stars
6/29/09 budo True story--well done 5 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner Great film!! 5 stars
5/15/08 PAUL SHORTT ENTERTAINING AND UPLIFTING 4 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White Integrity and faith, hard road to travel 5 stars
1/02/08 Matt Great performance from Crowe and superbly filmed fight scenes. Excellent movie. 4 stars
12/10/07 mr.mike worth seeing , Crowe can play anything 4 stars
12/09/07 R.W.Welch Realistic depiction. Standout perf by Giamatti. 4 stars
12/22/06 Thomas Wynn Nice story, and good acting. 4 stars
11/24/06 Charlene Javier Crowe was brilliant as usual. 4 stars
11/24/06 Patsyc I really enjoyed this movie. Although I am not a boxing fan, I really liked the story. 4 stars
11/23/06 Tiffany Losco saw this with my parents, it was awesome. I really liked the story. 5 stars
11/18/06 annie The movie was good, Renee was great. 4 stars
10/06/06 Kara I can re-watch this over and over again, riviting 5 stars
9/18/06 daveyt very enjoyable, though my blockbuster dvd was scratced to hell...! 4 stars
8/18/06 Tom Conroy I think Zellwinger did a great job. Her accent was the most authentic 5 stars
8/10/06 drydock54321 a bit long but good 4 stars
8/07/06 JenDenmark Good movie, would recommend it for a Sunday evening. 4 stars
7/11/06 David Cohen Missed getting 5 stars for its awful slur against Max Baer 4 stars
5/24/06 Anthony Feor Had depth but, it is just like Rocky 4 stars
5/18/06 Phil M. Aficionado Would be 5 stars if they hadn't "hokeyed" up Max Baer so extremely 4 stars
5/15/06 Diane P this was great, attention to detail for the era was astounding, all actors tremendous 5 stars
4/01/06 Nobody The best movie of the year. Why was it forgotten at the oscars? 5 stars
1/30/06 WiseMan Somthing was missing. All in all the movie was very Enjoyable 5 stars
1/05/06 Dan Great Movie! 5 stars
1/04/06 Piz true story and a winner. One of the greats of 2005 5 stars
12/18/05 ownerofdajoint Good boxing scenes but evades the truth on the causes of the Depression.Opey sells out! 4 stars
12/12/05 joseph taylor boring and violent. the script and movie far far below "rocky'. poor imitation of it. 2 stars
10/02/05 Jonathon Holmes good movie, but its no "Million Dollar Baby" 4 stars
9/29/05 JOrdan it was bad make a new movie! 1 stars
9/25/05 Renee Zellweger's best performance yet Hope she wins an Oscar and isn't taking a dump when it's presented! 5 stars
9/22/05 Fritz One of Howard's worst. Typical schmaltzy sports movie crap. 2 stars
9/01/05 Teh Gret one Prety Ghey 1 stars
8/28/05 Quigley russell crowe ruled the movie. why did it not make as much $? i loved this movie. oscars! 5 stars
8/26/05 Nobody True story, good boxing scenes, a hero you like rooting for, half-decent accents. 5 stars
8/25/05 Heather Purplethorne Quite interesting story of a human Seabiscuit 4 stars
8/11/05 George Seaberg Superb! I don't cry in a movie, but I did here. There's another similar story out there 5 stars
7/27/05 Tina Lawrimore Loved it! The best movie I have seen so far this yr. 5 stars
7/15/05 Lesle I forgot how much I hate boxing flicks 3 stars
7/11/05 Brian Feiler A movie with class and heart. Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger should be oscar contenders 5 stars
7/05/05 rocky i thought this movie was awesome 5 stars
7/04/05 Naka Howard is a lucky hack. 2 stars
7/03/05 Melissa AWESOME movie. Russell Crowe (at least in his profession) can't make a mistake. A+ 5 stars
6/30/05 Ole Man Bourbon I wish they'd included the scene where R Crowe smashed the phone on the valet 4 stars
6/30/05 Quigley Great to have Ron Howard back. This movie is awesome, awesome, awesome. 5 stars
6/30/05 lindy03 Excellent 5 stars
6/21/05 ownerofdajoint crowe is incredible;this movie is almost as good as raging bul 5 stars
6/18/05 chris. Gee, I didn't see ANY of that coming... 3 stars
6/17/05 Wayne Engle Second coming of Frank Capra! A superb job! 5 stars
6/16/05 Mike V Damn good. Ron Howard didn't "Hollywood" it up TOO much 4 stars
6/08/05 Jim Marmino Where is the creativity, just another Rock movie or Somebody Up There Likes Me. 3 stars
6/07/05 Ole Man Bourbon Decent, but oh so predictable. Definitely one of those that wrote itself (or maybe a puter 3 stars
6/05/05 PAUL BRUNS If you didn't already know the outcome, great 5 stars
6/05/05 Richard Hernandez GOOD MOVIE .WORTH A LOOK FIGHT SCENES ARE DONE WELL 4 stars
6/05/05 J MAN good not great. If this is the best film of the year, were in trouble... 4 stars
6/04/05 jcjs wonderful 5 stars
6/04/05 Koitus Great story. Giamatti should get Supporting Oscar for this one! Well set-up ending. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Jun-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 06-Dec-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  29-Sep-2005




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