Inspirational True Story
Starring: Russell Crowe, Renee
Zellweger, Paul Giamati, Bruce
McGill, Craig Bierko, and
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 144 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures/NBC
Director: Ron Howard
Executive Producer: Todd Hallowell
Producer: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and
Writer: Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva
Address Comments To:Bob Wright, Chairman/CEO
Ron Meyer, President/COO
Vivendi Universal Entertainment
Stacey Snider, Chairman
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608-1085
Phone: (818) 777-1000
Web Page: www.universalstudios.com
Based on a true story, CINDERELLA MAN is about the family and boxing career of James Braddock, an Irishman from New Jersey who gained notoriety as a light heavyweight in the late 1920s, until he lost a fight in 1929.
The movie opens near the eve of that fight in 1929. It then skips ahead to Sept. 25, 1933. Jim’s boxing career is in decline, a decline that has been increased by injuries to one of his hands. His friend and manager, Joe Gould, tries to get him other fights, but the Boxing Commission doesn’t like Jim’s last two lackluster performances, so it pulls his license.
Like many other people, Braddock lost all his money in the Great Depression. Now, he and his wife, Mae, are struggling to put food on the table for their three young children. Jim tries to get work at the docks, but jobs are scarce and his injured hand doesn’t help. Then, one of his sons becomes sick in the dead of winter, with the electricity and heat shut off, and Mae has to ship the children to their relatives. Jim finally puts aside his pride and joins the welfare rolls. Eventually, he starts getting steady work as a dockworker, despite his injured hand, which slowly recovers.
Then, in the spring of 1934, Jim’s ex-manager, Joe, approaches Jim with a boxing match. Jim can get some easy money for his family by fighting a heavyweight contender named Corn Griffin at Madison Square Garden. When Griffin’s opponent suddenly can’t make it, Joe and Jim are offered 250 bucks for the fight. To everyone’s surprise, Jim knocks out Griffin in three rounds. After that, Jim successively defeats two other contenders, and wins the right to fight Heavyweight Champion Max Baer on June 13, 1935. Baer is a powerful slugger who’s already killed two men in the ring. Only the prayers of Jim’s wife, Mae, and his Irish Catholic fans can protect Jim from suffering the same fate.
CINDERELLA MAN is Ron Howard and Russell Crowe’s best work. The period detail in this movie is exquisitely rendered. The scenes of Jim and his family struggling amidst the Great Depression are heartbreaking and absolutely enthralling. The viewer suffers right along with this very appealing family.
Also, the boxing matches in CINDERELLA MAN are among the most exciting, most involving ever filmed. Director Ron Howard puts the viewer right in the midst of the action, taking every blow and delivering every punch. Be forewarned, however – the boxing scenes are more realistic than the ROCKY movies, so the fighting is violent and sometimes brutal, but not extremely bloody. Howard also heightens the jeopardy for his hero by having the characters talk about brain damage to Max Baer’s two victims and hinting that Jim’s vision may be affected by the possible damage his brain already may be suffering because of his career choice. The movie also seems to be fairly accurate, though the boxer Max Baer probably was not quite the villain that the movie makes him out to be.
The acting in CINDERELLA MAN is Oscar caliber all around. The actors make their characters come alive. Russell Crowe shows once again why he just may be one of the best actors of his generation. Renee Zellweger also delivers a superb performance, as does Paul Giamatti. You want these characters to win, not just survive.
Best of all, CINDERELLA MAN has a very strong Christian worldview. Faith and prayer play an important role throughout, but especially at the end when Jimmy’s life hangs in the balance. Also, the script as directed by Ron Howard contains a very strong, positive portrayal of a family that always sticks together in the midst of the Great Depression. Audiences will not find a more positive portrayal of a father and mother and a loving marriage this year. CINDERELLA MAN is filled with many inspiring scenes of this appealing family overcoming great adversity. It’s a truly eloquent portrayal of grace and grit under pressure.
Regrettably, along with the boxing violence, CINDERELLA MAN includes many obscenities and many strong profanities (but no “f” bombs). Nearly all, if not all, of the foul language comes from Braddock’s gregarious manager, not from the movie’s hero and heroine. Thus, CINDERELLA MAN deserves a media-wise caution, in spite of the movie’s powerful moral elements and positive Christian references.
Like its subject, Jim Braddock and his family, CINDERELLA MAN has a lot of heart. It is well worth seeing, and worth remembering during awards season.
CINDERELLA MAN is one of the year’s most positive, most uplifting movies. Director Ron Howard and actor Russell Crowe do some of their best work, as do Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti. The inspiring story they tell has a very strong Christian worldview that extols family, faith, prayer, determination, and integrity. In addition to much boxing violence, there is plenty of foul language, mostly coming from the hero’s gregarious boxing manager, so media-wise caution is advised.