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Review written IN UNDER 15 MINUTES by: Alex Sandell
Note: This is part of my "15 Minutes, or it's Free" series. In other words, I rushed like hell to finish this. It wasn't proofread, and it probably sucks. But it's still a good value for the price.
Cinderella Man is a formula film created by a formula director (Ron Howard). Still, I'm surprised it wasn't a runaway hit, because, as far as recent formulaic pictures are concerned, this is one of the best. It's a story of inspiration, hope, dreams, blah, blah, blah, but it works. Somehow it sticks to formula, as it rises above the majority of films in the "feel good" movie genre.
Russell Crowe does a great job playing boxer Jim Braddock. It's one of his best performances (for once, I didn't hear his Australian accent peaking through), and I think he still has a chance of winning an award or two, come Oscar season. At least if he doesn't beat up any of the presenters on the way to the podium.
Paul Giamatti breaks character to play Joe Gould and, as always, impresses (and, as always, will be overlooked). Sadly, the depressing jerk-off loser guy he played in Sideways has forever tainted my opinion of the actor. Maybe not forever, but I really, really disliked that character. If anyone from HBO is reading this, could you please stop playing Sideways on your cable station every 32 minutes, like it's the second coming of comedy Christ? It's starting to give me nightmares.
Renée Zellweger mopes around a lot and isn't very impressive. She's the weakest link in this ensemble (remember that show The Weakest Link? That host was such a bitch. She called a fat guy "tubby" once. I bet that would have been "edgy" in 1955.). It's partially due to the fact that she isn't given much to do, other than mope. A stronger female character would have been welcome, even if it was a bit of an embellishment. Zellweger has proven, time and time again, that she can play strong female characters. Plus, the whole brunette thing isn't working for her. I know People magazine gets all in a tizzy over trivial crap like that. The host of The Weakest Link probably does, also.
Cliff Hollingsworth has written a screenplay that nearly forces its audience to stand up and cheer -- if only it had an audience. The one or two people in the theater probably knew where the movie was going, but they probably didn't care. Ron Howard makes sure that this well oiled machine never squeaks or grows rusty. The movie is nearly seamless and has a flow to it that a few faltering directors (*cough* Peter Jackson *cough*) could probably learn from.
Although it runs 145 minutes, the film moves fast and never bores its audience. Its content more than justifies its length. This really is an incredibly story of a man beating the odds in the boxing ring, while keeping a family together during the Great Depression. It's compelling, and everyone loves watching a good, old-fashioned comeback tale (even one involving a horse). Oddly, not many people went out to watch this one. They were all sitting in the next theater, watching Madagascar *shudder*.
Why wasn't Cinderella Man a hit? Part of it was that it came out at a time when people were in the mood for Madagascar (God knows why anyone would be in the mood for Madagascar) and Star Wars. Another part was because it was called "Cinderella Man." A boxing movie titled "Cinderella Man" would be like a romantic comedy named "Rambo." Titles matter. That's why Microsoft didn't call itself, "MonopolySuck." Lastly, Russell Crowe couldn't keep his temper in check during his PR tour for the film. A movie about an underdog boxer with a heart of gold played by a rich man acting like a big dick and throwing phones at minimum wage motel employees didn't go over well with the public.
All in all, Cinderella Man is the feel good bomb of the year. If it was released before home theater, it would have been re-released and would have found its audience and turned into a success story. As it is, its audience will consider themselves lucky when they find it in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart.
There's nothing this movie critic likes more than discussing movies with fellow film fanatics. He's even getting better at replying. Agree? Disagree? Doesn't matter. Let's talk film! Email Alex!
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