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Cass' review of
Cinderella Man
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Cinderella Man

Cinderella Man (2005)
Rated PG-13: running time: 144 minutes
Genre: Drama/Romance
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman
Movie Theater: The Grand Theatre
Cast: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Paddy Considine, Rosemarie DeWitt, Connor Price, Bruce McGill
Official site
IMDB site
Review Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2005


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"Lucky, that's something you ain't been in a long time." -- Joe Gould

CASS' CLIP (WARNING: **spoilers below**)

In this corner -- THE GREAT DEPRESSION!!!!! And, in this corner -- The opponent and the inspiration and hope of every downtrodden man, James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe).

The place, New Jersey. The era, the late 1920's. And the family, the Braddocks -- Jim (Russell Crowe) and Mae (Renee Zellweger), and their children, Jay (Connor Price), Howard (Patrick Louis), and Rosemarie (Ariel Waller). The Braddock family enjoys a comfortable lifestyle because Jim earns a decent living as a professional boxer ("the Bulldog of Bergen"). For awhile, Jim's powerful right hand hook is his family's meal ticket. But just as Braddock moves up in rank, he breaks his right hand. Braddock tries unsuccessfully and unconvincingly to fight with this injury. Boxing promoter, Jimmy Johnston (Bruce McGill), is so embarrassed by Braddock's showing, that Braddock is eventually stripped of his boxing license.

When the stock market crashes, things go from bad to worse for the Braddocks. Like every family during The Great Depression, Jim and Mae struggle to pay their bills and feed their children. Mae takes in sewing and mending jobs, and Jim periodically works on the docks. At one point, when their electricity is turned off, Mae sends their kids to live with relatives and Jim has no other choice but to sign up for welfare. Things look pretty grim, but Jim's luck is about to change when his manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) offers him with an opportunity he can't refuse -- $250.00 for a one-time fight against heavyweight contender, John "Corn" Griffin. Braddock is supposed to lose. Instead, in a stunning upset, Braddock not only wins the $250.00 purse, but he's also given another chance to fight John Henry Lewis. Now, Braddock's unprecedented comeback takes him to Madison Square Garden in Long Island City, NY where he faces heavyweight champion, Max Baer (Craig Bierko). Of course, the odds are heavily stacked against Braddock winning because Max Baer has already killed two other fighters in the ring.

Will Braddock be Baer's next victim? Or, can the Cinderella Man bob and weave long enough to last 15-rounds against the killer champ and take the title?

DA 411

Cliff Hollingsworth co-writes Cinderella Man with the award winning team of director, Ron Howard, actor, Russell Crow, and the screenwriter of A Beautiful Mind, Akiva Goldsman.

Irishman, James ("the Bulldog of Bergen") Braddock was also known by Damon Runyon's moniker, Cinderella Man. Of course, in Hollywood, the history behind this moniker is reason enough to bring this to the big screen. I went to see Cinderella Man for three reasons -- (1) the obvious, I'm a movie critic; (2) I love Russell Crow; and (3) no matter how many sub par movies (The Missing, How the Grinch Stole Christmas), Opie/Richie/Ron Howard makes, I'm still one of his loyal fans. But, after Million Dollar Baby, I'm not sure what we're supposed to gain from another down-on-their luck boxing movie, except perhaps, with today's economy, companies like Enron, and the war in Iraq, that we may face the same financial calamity of The Great Depression.

Cinderella Man will no doubt be a crowd-pleaser for the average moviegoer. In fact, I heard folks applauding and even crying in the theater. Russell Crow's athletic frame combined with the sensitivity he emotes as a family man will probably garner him a fourth Oscar nomination. The scene where Crow swallows his pride and begs for spare change is heart wrenching. Again, Paul Giamatti creates another exciting character. He's Braddock's fast-talking manager, always on the lookout for an easy fight with a good payday. In fact, in one laughable scene, Bruce McGill's character, Jimmy Johnston, tells him, "They ought to put your mouth in the circus." Bruce McGill and Craig Bierko turn in fine performances.

Although there were specific scenes that absolutely shined, I have to admit that I was a bored more than halfway through this movie.

Reason 1: The first 2 hours are overly melodramatic. Moviegoers understand that Braddock will do ANYTHING, except steal, to feed his family, but the human drama of his Depression-era saga could have been told in 45 minutes.

Reason 2: There was supposed to be a love story between Jim and Mae Braddock. Sorry folks, but I don't care how many times Thomas Newman's score played in the background when Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger looked in each other's eyes, kissed, or touched, there simply weren't any embers burnings between these two actors. Sure, Renee played the role of a supportive wife and loving mother, but I simply did not connect with her characterization. She was superb in Chicago and Cold Mountain, but in this case, there was really nothing special about her performance.

Despite my boredom, Cinderella Man is visually beautiful to watch because of the superb work of cinematographer, Salvatore Totino, production designer, Wynn Thomas, and costume designer, Daniel Orlandi. And, if the music score has a similar sound to other movie scores such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, or The Road to Perdition, that's because of composer, Thomas Newman, also wrote the score for Cinderella Man. He merely adds a little Irish influence in for good measure. Even though the outcome is predictable, in the last 20 minutes, Howard expertly draws the audience into the ring with some very tense boxing rounds.

For more details about the real Cinderella Man go to James J. Braddock's Official site.

CASS' CONCLUSION

Personally, the only part of Cinderella Man that's truly a knockout is the last 20 minutes.


Cinderella Man flashingyellow

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Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2005
EMAIL: cass@3blackchicks.com

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