Cinderella Man (2005)
Reviewed on 2009 November 30
Very effective movie, an odd but working hybrid of a boxing movie with chick flick overtones, and probably not a bad thing to have on hand when the family comes over for the holidays. There was only one thing in it that bugged me and I’ll get it to it in a minute, but it still pulls me in and I still enjoy it.
James Braddock (Russell Crowe) is a fighter that seems to have the world on the string, with a thriving boxing career, his loving wife Mae (Renee Zellweger) and three beautiful children. He even has his good friend Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) as his manager. The party abruptly comes crashing to a halt as The Great Depression derails the economy, and Braddock, like many people, lost a fortune in stocks. His career fails and the Braddock family hang on by a thread until Joe lands him a last-minute fight against Corn Griffin (real-life heavyweight Art “The Polish Warrior” Binkowski). If he can pull this off he has a chance at reviving his career, but if he goes up against more powerful fighters Mae is fearful of Jim being injured or worse.
The acting from Crowe was wonderful, but that’s a given, isn’t it? He dropped several pounds and trained with boxers to make this, and it shows. Zellweger seems to genuinely adore him as Mae, and director Ron Howard gave us a hero. The problem is how he portrayed Max Baer as a villain: from most accounts I’ve read the real-life Baer was a decent guy and not the good-looking thug we see in the movie. The only details Howard got right here are the Star of David on Baer’s trunks and in casting the handsome Craig Bierko to portray him, and I think that’s unfair. It’s also kind of redundant, since the Depression is already enough of a villain for this thing and the clip of the Carnera fight is disturbing enough to get his point across, but if you can get past that it’s still a great movie.
Three chocolate morsels.