Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
|Featuring||Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Connor Price, Craig Bierko, Paul Giamatti|
|Producer||Brian Grazer, Penny Marshall, Leslie Holleran|
“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