Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Cinderella Man

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense boxing violence and some language

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
Romance Drama
Length:
2 hr. 24 min.
Year of Release:
2005
USA Release:
June 3, 2005 (wide)
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Featuring: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Connor Price, Craig Bierko, Paul Giamatti
Director: Ron Howard
Producer: Brian Grazer, Penny Marshall, Leslie Holleran
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“When America was on its knees, he brought us to our feet.”

“Cinderella Man” tells the true life story of boxer James Braddock, a Depression Era fighter known as the “Bulldog of Bergen.” As the film opens, Braddock (Russell Crowe) is riding somewhat high on a string of victories that more than adequately provide for his wife Mae (Renée Zellweger) and their three children. His string of good fortune comes to an end around the beginning of the Great Depression, partially because most people just won’t spend money to see boxers fight when there is hardly any money to go around to begin with and partially because the broken right hand Braddock had been ignoring is now preventing him from fighting to his capabilities.

A fight against an opponent he once beat ends in an embarrassing loss for himself, and for the local boxing commission, and they inform Braddock that his fighting days are over, and that he needs to go home to his wife and kids and get on with his life. They revoke Braddock’s boxing license, forcing him to find work somewhere else at a time when very few people can find work at all.

He takes on whatever jobs he can find, but his broken right hand is enough reason to give potential employers cause not to hire him. The electric bill is past due, and they are dangerously close to having their electricity cancelled during the winter, which scares Mae into sending the kids away to her sister for fear that the children will get terribly sick if they are forced to live under such conditions.

The fear of losing his children drives James to hide his broken arm to get work and pay the bills so he can get his kids back, but the pay he is getting from the local docks is far from enough to pay the bills.

Then one day James’ former manager Joe Gould (played by Paul Giamatti) comes over to the house to inform James that he has gotten him one more fight because the boxer scheduled to fight was a late scratch. James was the last person they could find who would fight without training, mainly because of the purse that would come just from losing. James takes the fight, knowing that the money will bring his kids back, but to the surprise of the people who all thought James was a washed up has been, James wins the fight in resounding fashion, showing a swagger and determination that he hadn’t shown in years. This win sets up another fight, which he is supposed to lose, but of course doesn’t. When it becomes evident that James is a different fighter than he once was, the boxing commission sets up a fight for the heavyweight championship of the world between Braddock and Max Baer, a feared fighter known for having already killed two men in the ring.

“Cinderella Man” is a remarkable film, but one that contains content that may keep parents from wanting their children to see it. There is a great deal of language, almost all uttered by James’ manager Joe. While we don’t hear the f-word from him, he covers just about every other profanity in the book. The word “God****” is heard at the very least a dozen times, as are many uses of profane references like “Jesus”, “Jesus Christ”, and “Jesus H. Christ”. While Braddock may be rather clean of tongue, his manager more than makes up for it with his constant profanity. There are also a few references to male anatomy that may offend some. As is typical with any boxing film, there are plenty of bone crunching blows, broken noses, and free-flowing blood that will make many cringe. Before the final bout between Baer and Braddock, Baer makes a few comments regarding Braddock’s wife Mae, like “Does she say my name in her sleep?” These comments are made to get a rise out of Braddock, and they may be deemed offensive by some parents. And while Mae is a devout Irish Catholic and believes in the power of prayer, one scene shows Braddock saying he is all prayed out, because he wants to believe that he has some kind of say in how his life will turn out and not wanting to give it over to God. We have all heard of “self-made men” and Braddock seems like a perfect example of someone who felt that way about himself.

“Cinderella Man” is a great movie, plain and simple. The story, like most true life stories, is rousing in a way only true stories can be. We are given a hero to sympathize with, a good family man who adores his wife and kids and who is willing to do whatever it takes to provide for them. And the final scenes are genuinely thrilling, and I was on the edge of my seat much like I was for director Ron Howard’s other film “Apollo 13” because both are true stories that most of us don’t quite know the ending to. But the insertion of language into a story that didn’t really need it is disappointing, because in a day when most films aimed at older kids are woefully lacking in any redemptive quality, “Cinderella Man” is the kind of film those kids could learn a lot from.

Profanity: Heavy / Violence: Moderate / Sex/nudity: None

Viewer Comments
Positive—…I felt it was a very heart warming movie. It spoke of the family in a very positive manner. The husband/wife/child bond was viewed in a “we will survive together no matter what” angle. Having been on top of the economic ladder and then losing it all he “fought” (no pun intended) his way back without compromising. Even when the family was needing food, stolen food was returned.

On the negative side was the language. I never understand why the g-d word has to be used at all. It does nothing to add to the film. If only this had been left out it would have been more comfortable viewing. However, I feel the positive message of preserving and never giving up amongst many prayers in the film outweighs the negative. I would recommend it. I think for young men just becoming husbands and fathers it shows charasterics of what God expects in them.
My Ratings: Average/4
—Debbie Satterfield, age 42
Positive—“Cinderella Man” is like “Raging Bull” …with redemption. This is a very clear and intentional inspirational story. It is wittingly designed and purposed to uplift, inspire and leave people feeling good. And having a story that is based on a real person and at a very vulnerable time in our nation’s history makes it all the more effective.

“Cinderella Man” is a stirring story about a man who is motivated by love for his family, for others and for his country. While he struggles with his faith in adverse circumstances, he never tires of making right choices. The model he provides as a person, a husband, a father, and a citizen of his country is exemplary. This man knows integrity. He has character that shines far beyond his success as a sportsman. His victories lie first and foremost in the things that matter most.

It is interesting the emphasis put on church. While our main character doesn’t ever express much faith in God, others around him—including his wife—do embrace faith in God. It seems our hero does, too, but struggles with it as he sees his family hurting and struggling so much.

However, one of the strong points of this film is the fact that prayer was essential to Jim Braddock’s success (in this film). When the going gets tough, people turn to prayer, to God. This aspect was very postive.

One may need to know, too, that there is quite a bit of foul language used by Jim’s trainer (played by Paul Giamatti), including using the Lord’s name in vain. There are also many boxing scenes involving broken noses, blood and body blows. There is nothing sexually inappropriate throughout, save a couple of rude comments exchanged between some guys.

Overall, this movie is another endeavor toward postive, encouraging entertainment. It hits all of the right notes for it, and can certainly leave you feeling better than before you watched it.
—Chris Monroe, Staff Writer
Positive—4 of 4 Stars—Cinderella Man is nothing less than a cinematic triumph, spectacular film making and an incredible masterpiece that will go down in history as one of the greatest films ever made. Being a huge Rocky fan, I now realize that Cinderella Man is everything that Rocky is not. Ron Howard contradicts every pseudo cliché story lines and follows his own heart in filmmaking. Ron Howard also directs a movie aimed at reaching the human heart in ways that we never thought possible as well as teaching a story about morality and Biblical principle.

Cinderella Man is the true life story of the boxing legend, Jim Braddock, who was a once renowned boxer who fought in the great “Madison Square Garden” in the pre-depression era, until physical ailments started affecting his performance. When the depression hits, his family is devastated and they must learn to survive with lack of work, shortage of food, illness, and the temptations to make decisions that will tear their family apart. One day Jim’s old trainer gets him one last fight, which will change history forever and his family forever. Eventual circumstances bring Jim Braddock to a championship fight against a young fighter who has annihilated his opponents and killed two in the ring (“Bear”). Without saying too much, this movie will move you to weep, cheer, and feel emotions that have not been felt in a film for some time.

Ron Howard directs Cinderella Man showing a father and a fighter (Jim Braddock—Russell Crow) who loves his family first an foremost and shows a man who will makes every righteous decision, even if it means even harder times in his own life, a husband who loves his wife dearly and commands the leadership necessary to attempt to make it through the depression, a wife who supports his husband even though every time he steps in the ring, it tears her heart out, children who love their father and mother and never deviate from the trust, love, and the tight bond they have. Ron Howard makes the point to show some very important life lessons that come directly from the Bible, but without being too preachy: Turn the other cheek, husbandly leadership, not stealing, children being honest and accepting the consequences of their actions, humility, families do not need money to be close, using your gifts for others and not selfish gain, servant hood, and so much more. The list of valuable principles is just too long to list. Ron Howard also directs a film from a VERY conservative slant. He does not show that the upper crust bureaucrats are the reason for the depression but gives a very realistic and historical side of the tragedy. Ron Howard in a number of circumstances breaks party lines and shows the conservative thinking eventually triumphs.

Russell Crow, Renee Zellwigger, and Paul Giamatti give performances of a lifetime are sure to be nominated for academy awards. Cinderella Man is a sure pick as well to be nominated for an academy award as best picture, best director, best screenplay adaptation, best score, best costume design, best, film editing, art direction, and sound mixing. Leaving the only real competition in the Oscar race as “Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.” Yes, “Star Wars” will be nominated.

Personal Opinion on Children Seeing this Movie: I think that the rating is perfect at PG-13. This movie is incredibly realistic in its portrayal of boxing and shows realistic sequences that are quite lengthy and brutal, yet not overly bloody. The movie has some rough language, but nothing too hardcore. The bad language is used in context but does contain “G-D***” a number of times by Braddock’s Trainer, who actually tends to say the word out of more belief than slang. I would recommend this to kids 13 because the principles of family and doing what is right have not been portrayed in this light since the 40s. This movie is an important movie for everyone and anyone who sees this movie will understand what I mean. There are not any sex, nudity or sexual jokes or discussion at all.
My Ratings: Average/5
—John Kehrli, age 31
Positive—My husband and I went to see this movie last night and to date, as of this year, I have not seen a better movie. Jim Braddock (played by R.Crowe) was such a great example of a family man. He always kept his family and their welfare in the forefront. He had a personal dignity that was only superceded by his humbleness. At one point in the film, he throws away all dignity and goes, literally, hat in hand to beg (to keep his family together) and my heart just ached for him. No pride stood in the way of what he had to do to provide for his family. Yet he never degraded himself or God by resorting to less than moral means to provide for them.

Watching this close family go through hard times, suffering, loving and staying together, alone would have been enough to justify the price of admission. However, Ron Howard put in such action packed boxing scenes (and I am NO BOXING FAN) that I felt I was literally at ring side. There were a couple of times, if my husband wasn’t holding my hand I think I may have come out of my theatre seat and cheered.

This is a wonderful movie; yes, it has boxing violence, and it is brutal. Yes, there are instances of the Lord’s name used in vain, but as another reviewer mentioned, when Jesus’s name was used repeatedly, I got the feeling that it was being said less as slang and more as belief.

No sex, no nudity, some swearing, some alcohol drinking and an occasional cigar by various characters, but all portayed very relistically and never the focus of the scene.

I would suggest the entire family could see this movie, with the caveat of leaving the younger ones at home (under 10)… as the violence of the ring will probably be too much for them to handle, mainly because it is so realistic.

As a side note, my husband did not enjoy this film as much as I did (although he still liked it very much)…he said the title gave too much away, that one knew it was going to be a happy ending, even if you knew nothing about boxing history. However, I (obviously disagree) as the saying goes: The journey is the goal (not the end). This is a journey worth taking.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Lynai Torabpour, age 41
Positive—This movie pushed all the right buttons for me. The protagonist (Russell Crowe) is an entirely sympathetic character, as are his family members. Paul Giamatti (the boxing manager) turned in an Oscar-caliber supporting actor performance. Of course, Russell Crowe did an outstanding job as well and with a perfectly natural New Jersey accent.

This movie shows a strong marriage with two people who support each other and strive to teach their children good morals while keeping the family together during the depression.



When Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) is questioned by reporters as to what has made the difference in his boxing during his comeback, he replies, “I know what I am fighting for now.” Everyone asks him what it is. He responds, “Milk.” That scene encapsulated it all, as do the scenes where Jim’s wife (Renée Zellweger) calls him the “champion of my heart” even though she fears for his safety and will not attend any of his boxing matches. In a touching scene, she ultimately offers him her support and Jim tells her that without her, he cannot win.

There are some similarities in this movie with “Rocky,” but this movie is far superior, in my opinion. For one, it’s based on a true story. Second, I respect this man more because of his upstanding morality and dedication to his wife and children. The boxing scenes are realistic and very well done. I felt the suspense as if I were there myself.

I would say the only downside of the movie is the manager’s frequent taking of the Lord’s name in vain.

I felt like cheering at the end of the movie and left the theater feeling that my values had been validated and uplifted. I’ve enjoyed other Ron Howard movies, but every one of them had some element that didn’t work for me. This is the first Ron Howard movie that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Dana Chrysler, age 48
Neutral—“Cinderella Man” has some very good virtues for the discerning audience, and for once has a very positive portrayal of a Christian family going through difficult times. It is exceptionally well filmed, although the boxing scenes are somewhat overly lengthy and melodramatic. The story of Jimmy and his family was both inspirational and tear-jerking, but I found that the movie was difficult to enjoy with characters constantly taking Jesus’ name in vain. There are at least 30+ abuses by Jimmy’s manager. Plus, the boxing violence was very intense and brutal.
My Ratings: Average/4½
Charity Bishop, age 22
Negative—…I just sat through this movie and if I had not been in the middle of the isle I would have left the theater, just because of the language. Not many curse words, it was the Lord’s name taken in vain again and again and again. Over half of the movie was just hard fighting. The story was good, the actors were good. I felt bad for the young children there. It was very violent, but again it was about a fight, I expected that. Next time I will check this site before every movie.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/3
—Linda, age 46
Positive—“Cinderella Man” is another fine production from the genius of Director Ron Howard (a.k.a Richie Cunningham from “Happy Days” and Opie from “The Andy Griffith Show”). Talented Aussie actor Russell Crowe is stunning as famed boxer James J. Braddock.

To me, it’s really hard to say if this movie is better than Sylvester Stallone’s first “Rocky” movie. I like them both. As for it being a good, moral movie, I’d say it is because it speaks so much about a Christian’s life to adhere to God’s Word. In a Christian’s walk with God, he will stumble and no doubt have his own shares of trials and tribulations, like Jim Braddock when he lost his wealth during the Great Depression.

And when Jim was challenged to fight Max Baer, knowing that it could be his last bit in the ring, he struggled but realized that he could beat the guy… and never gave up, partially because he had the ability to defeat Baer and that most of the poor in New Jersey and New York saw him as an inspiration. When mankind fell into sin, did God give up on us? When Jesus met His fate at the Cross, He could’ve escaped and walked out of it… but He didn’t. Jesus stayed in “the ring” to give satan the proverbial KO because He loved us and many of us see Him as our inspiration.

The film could’ve gone with out the abuses of deity. That’s what I didn’t like about it. Everything else is fine. Too bad Hollywood doesn’t make more films like this.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Shannon H., age 23
Positive—…an INCREDIBLE film! Fine film making like this doesn’t come out every week so GO SEE IT! Yes, there is language and sexual situations but just enough to make it PG-13. I would b uncomfortable making this a family night movie because the language and sex scenes are a bit strong.
My Ratings: Average/5
—John Strickland, age 36
Positive—My grandfather used to tell me stories of the Great Depression, but they didn’t really hit hard with me until I saw this movie. “Cinderella Man,” despite its cheesy title, is an excellent film. The boxing scenes are intense and the scenes of the Great Depression are simply amazing. Crowe is just as good in this as he was in “A Beautiful Mind,” if not better. Ron Howard is an excellent director. Speaking from a worldly point of view, this movie is absolutely wonderful! But from a Christian point of view, there were times when I was very offended. Jimmy’s manager repeatedly says “Jesus” or “Christ” in a very blasphemous way. He says it all through the movie, which gets old really quickly. All total: Think hard before seeing this movie. “Cinderella Man” may be a great boxing film, but it’s no Prince Charming. Violence: Umm… yeah… it’s a boxing movie! And it does show a boxer’s death a few times. Sex: None, thankfully. Language: A lot of taking the Lord’s name in vain, and some other nasty words. Drugs: None. Messages: It’s not right to steal. Everyone deserves a second chance. Pay back your debts. Face your fears.
My Ratings: Average/4
—Dana, age 19
Neutral—I would snatch this movie up in a second if it were not for one glaring aspect occuring through the entire film. The name of Jesus was not respected at all during the movie. For all the hurt I felt for the boxers in the ring as they were punishing each other, it didn’t match the emotional hurt I felt each time my Lord’s name was carelessly used through most of the movie. I can’t recommend it for purchase.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Joel, age 25
Positive—I thoroughly enjoyed “The Cinderella Man.” The film is meticulously directed and edited, keeping the viewer immersed in this compelling story that takes place during the Great Depression. The nostalgic fight scenes are well choreographed and have the boxing “look” of that era. If it weren’t for the character of Joe Gould constantly misusing the Lord’s name I would have rated this movie’s moral rating “above average.” The movie is that good. With that said, Giamatti will probably be nominated for an Oscar in his supporting role as Braddock’s long time friend and sentimental boxing manager.

“The Cinderella Man” isn’t a simple depiction of James Braddock’s boxing wins. Rather, this movie elegantly focuses in on a humble man of faith, whose personal victories were not only measured in the ring, but through surviving and providing for his family each day during the Great Depression. Braddock is portrayed as a loving husband and nurturing father. Although living on skid row causes him to state that he’s “all prayed out,” he doesn’t lose hope as he begrudgingly learns that life isn’t always fair.

I found the incident of Braddock breaking his right hand (which ultimately caused his downward spiral in the boxing arena) to be an excellent example of how God can turn a negative into a wonderful positive thing. For it was during this trial that Braddock eventually became more dependant on using his left hand while working on the Jersey docks and consequently provided bigger dividends later down the road when the shut door to the boxing world suddenly and unexpectedly was reopened.

Parents should first screen “The Cinderella Man” before letting their teenagers watch this film. Again, this movie contains around 90 curse/slang words. However, with that said, I still feel a wise parent can teach their child a thing or two about what really matters in life. The portrayals of Jim and Mae Braddock in this film are good examples of loving parents and decent God-fearing people.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Albert Anthony Buonanno III, age 49

Comments from young people
Positive—AMAZING!! This movie is so excellent, sad, and just plain wonderful. Despite some swearing it is a great movie. I’d give it 5 stars out of 5. Go see it.
My Ratings: Better than Average/5
—Adam, age 14
Positive—If it weren’t for the constant taking of the Good Lord’s name in vein, this movie would’ve been perfect. When you read into the movie, Braddick really did represent the American people during that time. He was told that he could never box again, and all his hopes and dreams were brought down, just like the American people who lived during the Depression. Then, he made a miraculous comeback no one would’ve expected and became the World Champion. He accomplished the impossible and revived himself, just like the American people living during the Depression.

He was a devout family man and did anything to provide for his family. …anything. This is a heartwarming story that everyone will love. What I loved the best is everything you find out he does afterwards in the end of the movie.

This is a movie of principles, but I must warn you, it can get intense. The boxing scenes, for me, were quite intense as well as the language. I kind of expected both of those going into a boxing movie, especially when it’s given such rave reviews. Not many movies are given 5 stars that are free of violence and language if it’s about something like this. Anyway, I would recommend this movie for ages 15+ older.
My Ratings: Offensive/5
—Kim, age 15
Positive—EXCELLENT MOVIE! this is one of the best movies I have EVER seen! I found myself on the edge of my seat through all the fight scenes and was about to cry at the end. The only thing that I wish was not in the movie was the manager; every other word was Jesus’ name, and it wasn’t in a good way. But that is the only thing. The way Braddock’s character is portrayed as a father is amazing and Mrs. Braddock stood by her husband through the entire ordeal. Excellent movie. My 12 year old sister watched and loved it so I think the rating is right around the correct age limit. Little children should not see it, since the fights are extremely brutal and lifelike.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Brittany, age 17
Positive—If you think this is a girly movie, than you’re wrong! It is actually almost the complete opposite (although girls/women will like it, too). It is a great movie. I thought it showed what it was like for a lot of people during the Great Deppresion very well. There is some sex/kissing through out the movie, but what movie doen’t have kissing? Also the man Mr. Braddock is going to be fighting with last makes some crude jokes about Mr. Braddock’s wife. There is some violence but it is a movie about a boxer. During the last fight I could barely watch it, it was so intence! There’ss also mild language but they are not Christians and it is a Hollywood movie, still they could have kept it out. It does show Mrs. Braddock going into a church to pray for her husband. Also at the same church, during the last fight, it showes some people (including a minister) listening to the fight on the radio and praying for him. It is definatly not a movie for children under 12. My sister (who is 12) saw it as well as my mom, and sister-in-law and we all liked it. Another plus is that it is based on a true story. So if you are looking for a great movie go rent “Cinderilla Man”, it’s worth the money!
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Elizabeth, age 14