Reviews & Previews - Cinderella Man

Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2005 at 06:00 PM

Cinderella Man

By: S. Tran

Starring: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti
Directed by: Ron Howard
Running Time: 144 Minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 for intense boxing violence and some language.

Fight Night

Ron Howard continues to demonstrate why he is one of the best directors in Hollywood with his film about James J. Braddock's improbable rise from unemployed dock worker to world heavyweight champion. Set in the 1930s, Cinderella Man is an effective, if somewhat long film, that demonstrates that sometimes big budget Hollywood can produce quality film.

Russell Crowe stars as Jim Braddock, a promising fighter whose luck turns when he injures his hand and loses his money in the stock market. He ends up trying to get work on the docks to support his children and his wife Mae, played by Renee Zellweger. A stroke of luck gives Braddock the chance to fight against a top contender which starts him on his way back to the top.

As with any boxing movie the hero is always fighting for something greater than simply glory. When asked why he fights, Braddock answers he is fighting for milk, alluding to hid struggle to feed his family. This scene pretty much sums up the Jim Braddock we are presented with in the film. He is portrayed as an impossibly warm, caring and genuine man.

Whether he was as saintly as he is depicted in the movie is unknown. There has already been some debate over the portrayal of his opponent Max Baer, played by Craig Bierko. Baer is depicted as a simple, cold hearted killer in the film. His son however tells us that the real Max Baer was devastated over having killed one of his opponents and not proud of it. This makes us question whether the real Braddock had any faults not shown.

It would have remained an interesting story even if Baer wasn't made into such a one dimensional villain. This demonstrates one of the problems with Hollywood films, they tend to underestimate the intelligence of the audience. It's as though Ron Howard thought we couldn't understand Braddock's triumph unless there was a bad guy to root against. However, to be fair, you shouldn't be going to the movies for a history lesson.

Crowe, Zellweger and Giamatti all give good performances in their roles. Although at times I found that Crowe came off sounding a bit like Popeye with his faux New jersey accent. Giamatti is entertaining as Crowe's manager Joe Gould and provides some comic relief in the film.

As one would expect from a movie with this kind of budget the feel and look of the film is terrific. Ron Howard recreates the 1930s in great detail. The cinematography reflects the stark, hopelessness of the time well using muted colors with lots of grays.

Ron Howard could have probably cut about 20 minutes off of this film without making it any less effective. At 144 minutes I found that it did drag on in places. Overall however it was an enjoyable movie with good performances. Howard also manages to make the boxing scenes compelling enough to get audiences rooting for Braddock as he fights against the odds.


3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


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