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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Cinderella Man (2005)

"I have to believe that when things are bad, I can change them."
- Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: December 13, 2005

Stars: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti
Other Stars: Craig Bierko, Bruce McGill, Paddy Considine, David Huband, Connor Price, Ariel Waller, Patrick Louis, Rosemaie DeWitt, Linda Kash
Director: Ron Howard

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense boxing violence and some language
Run Time: 02h:24m:14s
Release Date: December 06, 2005
UPC: 025192211928
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AAA- A-

DVD Review

Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) stood among heavyweight boxing's rising fighters of the late '20s, but similar to countless talented Americans, his star fell drastically with the onset of the Great Depression. Five years removed from earning thousands of dollars per bout, he finds himself fighting to earn enough money for such bare essentials as milk and electricity. Stripped of his boxing license and nursing a broken hand, Braddock struggles to obtain low wages performing manual labor on the docks. This story would go nowhere without a final chance for the hero, and our underdog does receive a last-minute opportunity to fight a highly ranked heavyweight contender. Can Braddock overcome tremendous odds and reach the top again? His chances are very slim, which of course provides the essential setting for an inspiring rags-to-riches tale.

Cinderella Man offers a compelling depiction of America in the early '30s, when Jim Braddock's remarkable success inspired working-class boxing fans to believe again. Directed effectively by Ron Howard, this conventional Hollywood drama avoids nearly all of the pratfalls that could doom a promising story. Braddock's home life with his wife Mae (Renee Zellweger) remains believable and only veers slightly into overly sentimental territory. Once again, Russell Crowe proves his capability to transform into almost any character type and make it convincing. Even more impressive is the energetic work from Paul Giamatti as manager Joe Gould, who enlivens the story whenever he appears. Giamatti takes a possibly one-note character and skillfully weaves complexities into his personality. Both Crowe and Giamatti deserve Oscar consideration for creating unique, believable individuals who motivate us to follow their story.

This film's definitive highlights are the extensive fight scenes, which place us directly into the action and showcase the skills of each boxer. The ultimate showdown with the larger-than-life heavyweight champion Max Baer (Craig Bierko) sidesteps the obvious comparisons to Rocky, which leads to a unique experience. The countless flashbulbs and up-close footage reveal the brutal nature of boxing without resorting to unnecessary blood and gore. This bout also benefits considerably from a clever performance by a nearly unrecognizable Craig Bierko (The Thirteenth Floor) as the villainous Baer, who has killed several fighters in the ring. His past dominance even causes the generally uncaring promoter (Bruce McGill) to ask Braddock for a legal waiver prior to the bout. Baer's gigantic blows could down even the strongest of men, but Braddock's intelligence and courage give him a chance to succeed.

Throughout this lengthy 144-minute script, writers Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman weave intriguing details that lend authenticity to this gripping tale. Paddy Considine's Mike Wilson brings a human face to the numerous men who suffered during the Depression. Although his character is fictional, it shows another possible route for Braddock if he fails inside the ring. The Braddock family's unfortunate moments are especially difficult and avoid the pratfalls of many past films depicting the era. Crowe and Zellweger never overplay the conflicts that arise and deal with them in a believable, yet laudatory manner.

Cinderella Man's overly sentimental outlook may alienate some viewers, but it succeeds grandly in the realm of the classic Hollywood drama. By taking his time and presenting the low points for Jim Braddock, Ron Howard makes his eventual comeback a greater achievement. The final outcome is not a major surprise, but it still feels authentic because nothing has been easy for Braddock. The concluding fight ranks among the premier boxing scenes in cinema history and should appease viewers who think Howard will make it too easy. In real life and on film, nothing was easy for Jim Braddock, which helps this story to rank among the best pictures of the year.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Cinderella Man utilizes an impressive 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that effectively conveys the colors of the time period. Grain is virtually absent from the print, and the sharp images add believability to every scene. The bright lights of the roaring '20s contrast perfectly with the cold, dire shots of the Great Depression, and this transfer never wavers from providing an excellent image.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchno


Audio Transfer Review: This release offers a powerful 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that presents Thomas Newman's touching score in glorious fashion. The sound effects from the fight scenes spring from every corner of the sound field, which helps to bring us directly inside the ring. While a DTS transfer would have been an added bonus, I have no complaints about this track. Viewers still living without a digital home theater should enjoy the 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer, which provides a solid experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Gladiator: Extended Edition, Law & Order, Pride and Prejudice
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Director Ron Howard, Writer Akiva Goldsman, Writer Cliff Hollingsworth
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: custom cardboard cover with sl
Picture Disc
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Kodak Cinderella Man Gallery
Extras Review: The version that I received to review was the standard Widescreen Edition, so it lacks the extras of the more expensive Collector's Edition. However, this release does include an impressive array of bonus features, which are described in the following sections:

Commentaries
This disc includes a surprising bonus of three individual commentaries from Director Ron Howard, Writer Akiva Goldsman, and Writer Cliff Hollingsworth. The director's commentary utilizes his friendly, conversational style that showcases the intelligence of this underrated filmmaker. Howard speaks on our level and seems tuned into the type of information that will interest DVD viewers. Goldsman and Hollingsworth aren't able to match this level of insight on their tracks, but each guy provides intriguing details on the difficult task of creating a biopic.

Deleted Scenes (with commentary by Ron Howard)
This collection of six deleted scenes runs for 20 minutes and offers added emotional weight to the Braddocks' tale. However, the extra footage also would slow down the pace and lose some audience members, so the scenes had to go. Ron Howard describes the reasons for each moment's deletion and calls them the "sacrifices" required when creating a picture. Several inclusions offer more background on the Depression era, but do not push the primary story forward. None of the scenes are the typical throwaways, but they also would not dramatically alter the original movie.

The Fight Card: Casting Cinderella Man
Much of the film's success is due to the excellent work by the entire cast, and this 22-minute documentary goes into detail about the actors and their roles. Ron Howard speaks about choosing the project due to Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger's interest. This feature covers the actors and speaks to each person about their experiences and reasons for taking the role.

The Man, The Movie, The Legend: A Filmmaking Journey
This 14-minute featurette tries to cover the entire production within a short time period, which leads to only quick glimpses at each element. Director of Photography Salvatore Totino discusses the look of the period piece and his attempts to avoid the perfect images of other pictures. We also briefly learn about the costumes, sets, and boxing footage.

For the Record: A History in Boxing
Longtime boxing trainer Angelo Dundee worked with Crowe on this picture, and he speaks about the actor's abilities to pick up Braddock's mannerisms and boxing skills. Trainer Wayne Gordon also appears in this six-minute feature to discuss his vigorous schedule.

Ringside Seats
This compelling nine-minute feature includes shots of the actual fight between Jim Braddock and Max Baer. Novelist Norman Mailer sits down with Howard, Goldsman, and Producer Brian Grazer to screen the fight and discuss certain moments. One intriguing moment involves Baer attempting to fake-out Braddock into believing he is falling, which shows an example of the arrogant style that Bierko uses in playing him.

Jim Braddock: The Friends and Family Behind the Legend
The Braddock family members were very dubious of Hollywood crafting a biopic from Jim's story, but Howard must have turned them around. In this 11-minute piece, Howard Braddock discusses his memories of his father and his recognition of his great accomplishment in becoming heavyweight champion. We also learn that Rosemarie Dewitt, who plays Sara Wilson, is actually the granddaughter of Jim Braddock.

Kodak Cinderella Man Gallery
This two-minute commercial for Kodak includes a few photos from this film, but it mostly serves as a pointless advertisement for the company.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Cinderella Man has been nearly lost within the deluge of winter Oscar hopefuls who appear during the final weeks of December to catch the Academy's eye. After viewing this remarkable film for the second time, I sincerely hope that it receives a well-deserved Best Picture nomination.

 


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