(2005)  

Alan:

Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone:1/2 TV Guide:1/2


Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Here's the thing about Cinderella Man.  It's a great movie but it was released during a weird time of year for an Oscar-Type drama.  Summer Blockbuster Season belongs to films like Star Wars 3, Batman Begins, and War of the Worlds.  Unless this is a weak year for movies, this will probably be forgotten by next year's Oscar's just like Seabiscuit was a couple years ago.   Also it's being released way to close to last year's boxing Oscar winner, the much better as far as I'm concerned, Million Dollar Baby

Now I think there's plenty of room for more boxing movies.  I love boxing movies with the exception of Rocky 5.  That one was just stupid.  But for Super dramatic Oscar hopefuls like this one you need to space them out a few years apart.  Even if this was the greatest boxing movie ever the Academy is probably not going to recognize another one so soon.  

Boxing does have something though,  that makes it perfect for film.  I don't really know what it is.  Perhaps its the drama of the fight itself.  It's like a story with no words.  Each round is a chapter and you know there is going to be a beginning, an exciting middle and then a big finale.  

With Cinderella Man you get a bit of character story as well.  Jim Braddock was a pretty good fighter on his way to the top before the Great Depression.  Then he broke his hand, got decommissioned as a fighter and sank, along with his wife and children, into absolute poverty.  This part of the film was most interesting to me.  There are not a lot of movies that deal with this time period and it was interesting to see just how down everyone, but a privileged few, were at the time.  Then his manager gets him a last minute fight and Braddock begins an unlikely comeback.  His time spent working as a day laborer dock worker has doubled as a training regimen that has kept him in shape and actually strengthened his weak left punch.  So he fights his way back up until he gets a title fight for the heavyweight championship against the much larger fighter and Champion Max Baer.  Baer has already literally killed two opponents in the ring and Braddock will probably be his next victim.

I won't spoil the big fight for you but since this is a true story you might already know how it ends.  The fighting in the film is a little more brutal than usual because the camera really takes you up close.  I think they even use that effect a couple times where it switches to an x-ray view so you can see ribs crack.  The other thing about the fights is that you get to see more of them than usual.  The last fight, you practically see in it's entirety.  This was kinda cool.

The actors all do a great job.  Of course Russell Crowe was brilliant as always.  He's become one of those actors who should probably win some sort of award for everything he does from here on out.  He does a fantastic job playing a character like Braddock who is kind, gentle, and noble while at the same time able to excel at a brutal sport like boxing.  I'm not giving him enough credit here.  You just have to see it to know what I mean.  The other person who is impressive is Craig Bierko, the guy who plays Max Baer.  This is a huge and scary guy who does a great job with a role that could have been over the top.  

The rest of the cast is fine.  Renee Zellweger does fine as the wife but anyone would have been able to do this role and I'm not a huge Zellweger fan. 

The only other big actor of note is Paul Giamatti.  Everybody is going bonkers for his performance as Braddock 's manager Joe Gould.  Roger Ebert says: "Paul Giamatti, in a third home run after "American Splendor" and "Sideways""  I don't know what to say.  It's not that I don't like Giamatti.  I have nothing against him but I never understand why people are so eager to lavish praise on everything he does.  He does a fine job as Joe Gould but anybody could have fulfilled the small requirements of this supporting role.  Honestly, he's a good actor but I have yet to see him in a role that truly showcases his supposedly amazing talents.

So if you're not into watching all the super fun popcorn blockbusters of the summer then director Ron Howard has released a super serious drama that is sure to bring you down and then kind of lift you up again.  But you might want to just wait until winter and catch this one on DVD so you can really appreciate it closer to Oscar time.