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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 Lybarger

"It’s like ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ only it’s upbeat."
5 stars

“Cinderella Man” is the sort of film that takes viewers in obvious directions but does so in such a skillful and earnest way that it makes a virtue of predictability. It’s like riding in a Mercedes to see someone you love.

Admittedly, director Ron Howard and screenwriters Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman (“A Beautiful Mind”) are obligated to follow the rigid template of 1930s heavyweight boxer James J. Braddock’s career, which could potentially dim their chances for building suspense.

Fortunately, Braddock’s story is so compelling that the inevitable becomes unusually gripping. Howard and his collaborators wisely avoid fudging the record because doing so would be an insult to both the boxer’s legacy and to the audience’s intelligence.

Howard never loses sight of the severity of the Depression and its effects on America (he once directed a documentary on the subject), so “Cinderella Man” has an authenticity that keeps the film consistently engaging.

For those who don’t devour sports history, Braddock (Russell Crowe) had a promising career before the stock market crash of 1929. But a broken right hand gradually sent his professional and personal life into a tailspin. At one point, his talent seemed so spent that he was banned from competing.

While this was certainly a blow to Braddock’s pride, he was still boxing past his prime because he had to support his wife Mae (Renée Zellweger) and their children. Paying the bills became an almost impossible task, and only his manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) still believed in him.

After finding himself in the relief lines and working at the docks despite his boxing injuries, Gould finally gets Braddock into a Madison Square Garden fight with contender Corn Griffin. Braddock lands the bout simply because there are no other eligible opponents. Being out of the game for an extended period, he appears to little more than a punching bag for Griffin.

Needless to say, Braddock had a few surprises waiting for his opponent and for boxing fans across the nation. Howard does a terrific job of paralleling the boxer’s fortunes with those of the nation and helps viewers understand why Braddock eventually became so popular.

By most accounts Braddock was a decent fellow who could punch his seemingly superior opponents into unconsciousness. This creates an interesting challenge for Howard and the screenwriters.

In “Raging Bull,” Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro kept viewers interested despite Jake La Motta’s repellent personality. Howard and Crowe, on the other hand, manage to make Braddock’s situation credible despite his occasionally saintly acts.

In addition to being a convincing boxer (does that come from his pugnacious off screen reputation?), Crowe makes the larger than life character both human and sympathetic. He has a commanding presence and one of the most subtly expressive faces in the business.

Zellwegger manages to hold her own against him, and Giamatti demonstrates that he can play a likable character with the same finesse that he portrayed a tormented alcoholic wine snob in “Sideways.” This guy is so overdue for an Oscar nomination.

The supporting cast in “Cinderella Man” is remarkably deep with Bruce McGill (“The Insider”) as a no-nonsense boxing kingpin and an intimidating Craig Bierko as Braddock’s formidable opponent Max Baer.

Howard and cinematographer Salvatore Totino shoot the boxing scenes in a subjective manner that makes the punches hit home and prevents the preordained outcomes from becoming stale.

“Cinderella Man” treads on familiar territory (my colleagues at the Kansas City Star have dubbed it “Sea-boxer”) but does so with footwork that would make the real James J. Braddock proud.

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originally posted: 06/03/05 13:37:41
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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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