"Cinderella Man": No Glass Slipper
Movie audiences sure are a fickle lot. Amid a dearth of quality movies in recent months, The New York Times reports that box office for Cinderella Man has been far from a KO.
"Despite an Oscar-caliber cast led by Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger, an Oscar-winning director in Ron Howard, glowing exit polls and solid reviews, 'Cinderella Man' has stalled at the box office, taking in just $34.6 million after two weeks.
"The result has been a blue mood at Universal. 'There are hardly words to describe how we all feel,' [Cinderella Man producer Brian] Grazer said. 'I feel like crying.' "
I've just got to say that amid a lackluster year for serious-minded movies (at least so far), Cinderella Man has been one of the more welcome surprises. Some might argue that this biopic about 1930s-era prizefighter James J. Braddock is a manipulative tear-jerker, but the film's emotional pull is genuine and affecting. Indeed, how would a filmmaker go about chronicling the Great Depression without jerking a few tears? Rampant poverty and soup kitchens aren't exactly the stuff of musical comedy.
Howard is so skillful a mainstream director that too often he is dismissed by film critics suspicious of anything that actually connects with a wide audience. But I would contend that it is a nifty hat trick to construct a dramatic film around a protagonist who is decent, honest, compassionate and loving. There is no marked tragic flaw here -- only the external forces of the Depression and his opponents in the ring -- and yet Cinderella Man never wants for conflict. And Howard is helped along by two of the finest actors currently working today, Crowe and Paul Giamatti.
Our unsolicited advice: Re-release it in late fall. This kind of movie invariably gets lost amid sci-fi epics, caped crusaders and Adam Sandler.