I have not seen the Russell Crowe movie Cinderella Man so this will not be a review. This will, however, be an examination of why the film is a flop and one need not see the movie to understand the why of its demise.
1. The title Cinderella Man is awful. It’s too cute in a bad way. I understand the movie is the story of a man who survives with his family during the Depression by getting paid to box. I can’t imagine any real boxing fan — man or woman — who would pay to see any movie with the word â€œCinderella” in the title. The person who pressed for that title for this movie should be knocked out of the movie business!
2. Russell Crowe burn out. We love the guy but we don’t want him to be “lovable” and the word on the street is that he’s a sweetheart with a good left hook in the movie. We want Russell Crowe throwing things at people — on screen, not in hotel lobbies — because he’s a man’s man and his heart is hard and cold just like his right fist. Russell Crowe is a hero movie star type and while I admire his effort to play against his stereotype he must continue to command, save, and be tortured on screen to make us want to pay to see him. Playing a blue collar good guy is challenging our expectation of him in a way we don’t want to shed money to witness in a boxing movie.
3. Renee Zelweger over-exposure. I have never found her to be particularly attractive or interesting on screen. That said, she is everywhere and is popular in Hollywood and she works a lot. We are tired of seeing “that face” in public. You know what I mean. She needs to take that face and go into hiding with Russell Crowe’s soft side and not come out again in the light for at least a decade.
4. Ron Howard wear down. I’m tired of hearing what a great guy Ron Howard is in the press! He needs a good slapping to knock some of the preciousness off him and he needs to throw a few phones around — and hurt someone doing it — and not be sorry afterward! We don’t want a goody two-shoes directing a fight film. We don’t mind that kind of sweetness in a director for a rescue movie like Apollo 13 or a mad scientist movie like A Beautiful Mind, but for a boxing movie we want tough guys behind the lens! Is Martin Scorsese tough? He can beat up Ron Howard!
5. Wrong place, wrong time. We are in the midst of our own Great Depression as a Nation, Part II. We are stuck in a war from which we cannot escape. Money is only flowing well and fluidly in High Society streams while the rest of the country wallows in just-enough-to-get-by mode with no rescue in sight. We are slowly awakening from the re-election and wondering what we have wrought against our freedom and personal liberties in the name of securing the United States. We don’t want to pay hard money to see the same kind of suffering on screen we live every day. We don’t care about the first Great Depression right now because we’re trying to lift ourselves out of our own daily Emotional Depression. We go to movies to escape the reflection of our lives, not to reflexively live it again, in real time, over two hours.
There are rumors floating in Hollywood that we, the paying public, don’t understand what a great film Cinderella Man really is and that it will be re-released upon us again in the Fall when we come to our senses and make Cinderella Man the blockbuster it was supposed to be this summer. To that style of everyday Hollywood bubble-thinking, I say this:
Good Luck. Not even a Russell Crowe telephone thrown at each and every one of us could knock us into taking the second call on a movie we didn’t answer on the first ring. The first rule of dramaturgy is to never play the same moment twice and, I fear, the same advice applies to re-releasing summer flops in the Fall.