Film review by: Witney Seibold
Cinderella Man reunites Russell Crowe with Ron Howard (after the success of A Beautiful Mind), is produced by an award-winning production team, was written by award-winning writers, features an award-winning leading lady in Renée Zellweger, and is a Heartwarming, Inspiring and True Underdog Story about a Depression-era boxer who, for the Love of his Family, Surmounts Impossible Odds and Wins the Day. It may be based on real boxer James J. Braddock, and the odds he overcame were indeed daunting, but this film couldn’t be more by-the-book if it wanted to be. This film has been compares to Seabiscuit by some critics, and that is an apt comparison, as they are both saccharine Hollywood schmaltz-fests that seemed designed less to inspire audience members, and more members of the Academy. This film is shoulders above that horse movie, but it still gave me the urge to insert a shunt into the screen to drain some of the Grade-A dark amber.
But I’m a bit harsh. In playing by the rules, Howard and crew may not have created an original film, but they did not make a bad one. Crowe is still a fantastic actor, and played Braddock as a very clean, very pure man who truly wants to do the right thing; he’s not sandwiched into being a hero by the script, but seems to merely be one naturally. Paul Giamatti, as Braddock’s intelligent boxing coach, is extraordinary as usual, and can hold his own with Crowe. Even Zellweger grated slightly (but only slightly) grated my nerves less. The costumes and photography were first-rate, the pacing was kept up, the history kept clear (by captions of recorded fights), and the mood kept out of the doldrums in which Depression-set films occasionally seep.
But at the end of the day, you will leave the theater feeling pretty much the same as when you entered. Maybe smiling a bit, but not changed or moved. An award-winning team got together, and they made exactly what you would expect them to make. Like I said, though, it’s not a bad film. Just really, really typical. It will surprise you in the exact same way.