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What's next, a remake of The Running Man renamed "The Dorothy Gail Story" because he made it home in the end? Bah! Bah, HUMBUG!
When Ron Howard's Cinderella Man was released to great acclaim and advertising, everyone at the movie company was surprised it tanked. I'm not a million percent sure, but I'd theorize that part of it could be the idea of a big burly boxing movie being called "Cinderella Man".
Regardless of the reason, Cinderella Man didn't do all that well at the Holy Holey Window, and that's pretty un-cool, amigos, because Cinderella Man does deserve to be seen. This tale about the fall and rise of Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) has a lot going for it, from great acting to a well-done story and a sympathetic leading man. Not the least of the positives here is the historical accuracy. Jim Braddock was a real Boxer with a real struggle, and yes, this is no mere misguided marketing slogan, Jimmy was really known as the "Cinderella Man" for his Rocky-esque rise to the top.
At the height of the great depression there was nowhere to go but up, however. Jim is a mid-level boxer who makes just enough dough fighting to keep his wife and two kiddos fed (with a pilsner-load of help from the local dock). Unfortunately, when Big-Bad-Braddock breaks his deadly right in a deadly fight, the money cuts off like a hand in any given Star Wars flick, and Jim and his wife Mae (RenÚe Zellweger) are faced with some tough choices. This includes but isn't limited to sending the kids away (something Jim cannot abide). Naturally, this shows the differences between the '30's and when I grew up, as my parents couldn't WAIT to get my ass out of the house.
Crowe is fantastic as the proud New Jersey Irishman who tires his damnedest to keep things together with absolutely no means to do so. One never forgets that he's a man, and that every ounce of begging he must do and charity he must accept is about as comfortable for him as chewing on a discarded Baked Beans tin can top! Enter Fight Promoter and Manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) who convinces the big-bosses to use old Jimmy in their next fight, if as nothing but cannon fodder. With the right still recovering Gould and Co. discover Braddock has one hell of a South Paw, and it's soon filled with green paper because of this! This fight leads to another, and another, and the drama continues and unfolds surrounding the depression of The Depression, the needs of the working man out of work and the desires of a wife like Mae who feels pretty honking sure that Jim needs to settle down and grow up.
Of course, we pretty well know where this one is headed. There is that familiar feeling of knowing exactly what is going to happen, but wanting to see how this film goes about it. The Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman and Cliff Hollingsworth (who also wrote the "story" the screenplay is based on) is filled with poignant moments, but is also packed with sweet sentimentality, the likes of which far too obviously scream OSCAR BAIT. There's a lot that feels like a tear-jerking set up here, but also a lot that hits the mark and works quite well in spite of the rest of the glurge. And while it wasn't the box office hit it promised to be or the Oscar Sweeper director Ron Howard might have planned on, clearly he and his Imagine Entertainment kemosabes were doing something right, as Cinderella Man was indeed nominated for three 2005 Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti, Best Film Editing: Mike Hill and Dan Hanley and Best Makeup: David Leroy Anderson and Lance Anderson).
It should be noted that Giamatti wasn't alone in his good acting. Crowe and Zellweger both do fine jobs as our leads (without seeming greedy for the gold statue) and Paddy Considine, Bruce McGill, Craig Bierko and Rosemarie DeWitt offer some very fine support. And, yes, lest we forget the name of the director, Clint Howard does indeed show up in his ubiquitous cameo as a referee.
In short, Cinderella Man is a highly above average movie featuring some great acting, directing, editing, and yes, makeup, all of which helps it transcend its few flaws. Four and One Half Stars out of Five for Cinderella Man. Now, if they could only sell the rights to New Line Cinema, then we'd see what's what, wouldn't we, folks? Yep, everybody fights everybody there. We could have Cinderella Man Versus Rocky at last! Or we could have Cinderella Man Versus Freddy Versus Jason Versus Michael Myers, or we could have Cinderella Man Versus Gandalf, or even Cinderella Man Versus Godzilla Versus King Kong! Or, hey, how about Cinderella Man Versus Cinderella? I mean, she'd have him beat before midnight, right? Afterward... well that's just not a very good idea at all, now is it? Tune in next time for Kneumsi Versus The Next Reel.
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