Cinderella Man - * * * *
Review of DVD edition
Originally posted on 1/17/06
Cinderella Man is one of those great sports movies. It's great because it rises above the sports story and makes the human story more important. But sports have always been a great metaphor for the challenges of life.
In this case, the story is about James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe), a fighter who fought and lived through the Great Depression. His own story mirrors what was happening to America: he had it all, and then he lost it. He ends up working on the docks with a broken hand, his boxing license revoked, nothing left but his dignity. And even that is shattered when he has to beg from old friends.
But then his old manager (Paul Giamati) offers him a one-time fight against an up-and-coming heavyweight. Without a full meal in his stomach, without any training, Braddock beats the challenger. His left punch, which was his weakness, has become the stuff that dreams are made of--or, more accurately, the stuff boxing titles are made of.
The thing that's amazing about Cinderella Man is that most of it is true. Sure, it's been dramatized, but the essential facts are there. Ron Howard's sure directing of a great script help tell the story clearly.
The DVD edition is packed with the usual documentaries, but it seemed that many of them went above and beyond what you'd expect. The real gem on the second DVD is the entire James Braddock/Max Baer fight. After watching the movie fight, it's interesting to see how the real deal went down.
In the final analysis, Cinderella Man joins Rocky, Chariots of Fire, Rudy, Hoosiers, Field of Dreams, and many others as one of the best sports films. One of the best films of 2005.