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Overall Rating

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 Collin Souter

"Aren't any of the critics going to call this 'A Knock-out'?"
4 stars

Let’s not pretend that Ron Howard’s “Cinderella Man” is anything more than superficial committee-based Oscar Bait disguised as The Sleeper Hit of the Summer. It has all the earmarks of your typical summer release geared towards adults that stands destined for Academy glory. It’s a period piece boxing drama starring Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti. I see Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Art Direction, Costume Design, Cinematography, Editing, Screenplay and Director. You can write it all down right now. That doesn’t mean it’s great, but it also doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the damn thing, either.

It just so happens that I like Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger and especially Paul Giamatti. It also just so happens that Ron Howard excels at this sort of thing. He makes good, crowd-pleasing entertainment, pure and simple. Sure, he’s derivative and never really takes chances, but he manages to craft some solid pieces of entertainment. Besides, at this time of the year, when just about everything else at the multiplex makes you want to punch your own lights out, are you really going to complain about a well-made, well-acted, formulaic sports movie? Me neither.

This one tells the story of James J. Braddock (Crowe), a heavyweight champion in 1929 who breaks his hand, loses a few fights and becomes a victim of the Great Depression. While his wife, Mae (Zellweger), looks after their kids, Jim goes to the docks and hopes to get picked to haul some freight for a day’s pay. Sometimes he gets picked, sometimes he doesn’t. For the Braddock’s (and just about every other working stiff at the time), every day is a drama about which will get cut first, the electricity or the gas? One day, his former manager, Joe Gould (Giamatti), offers James the chance to re-live his glory days in a one-time-only fight.

Do you see where this is going? Of course, you do. I bet you can already hear the “I can’t bear to watch you almost get killed again” speech from the wife. Or the hushed silence of crowds at the high points of the fights. Or the Celtic score by Thomas Newman that accompanies the montages, especially after the first mention of the Luck of the Irish. And I bet you can already predict the drama that takes place as each fight gets tougher and tougher. You know it, you’ve seen it and you’ve been here a hundred times already.

So, what makes Braddock’s story worth telling? I guess at a time when boxing has become more of a flashy sport than one of substance, it’s important to go back to a time when sports figures became necessary to lift a country out of its misery (see also last summer’s Oscar bait, “Seabisquit”). Braddock failed in life just as everyone else had at the time. When he made money, he didn’t flaunt it, but gave it back to the people. He had a bond with those who struggled at the time and became a sports figure the masses could appreciate for more than his skill.

The role fits Crowe perfectly. He plays Barddock with nervous charm and hidden strength. He’s a vulnerable character who doesn’t always let you see the fighter in him. In one unexpected moment, Braddock gives a smile that reveals another layer of his character and gave me another reason to stay in my seat and keep watching. Zellweger makes the most of the wife/mother role even though she spends most of the movie looking worried. And I think we all knew that Giamatti would one day play the Manager role in a bio-pic and he fills it nicely.

Any boxer will tell you that the goal in the ring is not to hit, but to avoid being hit. Essentially, that’s the story behind “Cinderella Man.” It’s not really about winning, but about surviving. Braddock became an inspiration not because of his ability to throw punches, but because he could take a punch and not let it knock him out completely. “Cinderella Man” doesn’t face any uphill battles of its own. It’s a well-made, entertaining film that will please the masses which, considering the Great Depression of Cinema where we currently reside, is something of an inspiration in and of itself.

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originally posted: 06/03/05 14:39:12
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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
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 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
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  03-Jun-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 06-Dec-2005



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