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 “Cinderella” 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.

13 Comments

  1. Osinachi —
    Men are hanged without a trial every day as you clearly know based on your hearfelt blog.
    My article, however, is not a hanging and I clearly state I am not reviewing the movie.
    I am explaining why “Cinderella Man” flopped at the box office.
    If I had seen the movie then I could not write the article because I am articulating the reasons why I, and many others, did not attend “Cinderella Man.”

  2. More or less what I’ve been thinking, too. Plus, I’m sick of these movies all about how a horse or a burned-out boxer or a kitten stuck on top of a telephone pole united a nation and lifted everyone’s spirits during the Great Depression. Enough of that already.

  3. Cube —
    I’m glad we both haven’t seen “Cinderella Man” because, slowly, my point is being honed home. 🙂
    I haven’t seen the Sith movie yet. George Lucas needs to play to his strengths: Technology and Spectacle, and let the dramaturgical structure fall into the hands of the reasonably more talented.
    I find going to the movies today a rather crass experience with all the talking and chatting and cellular phones ringing like a cacophony of church bells, but without the meaning behind the message. I don’t know if this is a unique urban attitude of disrespect for others in public places or if this behavior has seeped into the hinterlands as well.
    So I tend to wait for good movie to come my way on Pay-Per-View or on DVD where I can study, and enjoy the experience, in the quiet of my own domain. With the rush for Hollywood to turn a dime, my wait for Pay-Per-View or the DVD version is usually only a couple of months. I do try to brave the brazen if a movie seems irresistibly interesting but I haven’t felt that way since “Memento.”

  4. Hi Wayne —
    I am with you on your take about the “feel-goodness” that gets stuck upon us by Hollywood do-gooders.
    That style of filmmaking may have worked in the 1950’s, but in our Age of Disillusioned Enlightenment, even children can see through the phony ruse.

  5. My wife and I agree, Cinderella Man stinks as a name of a boxing movie. Maybe an art flick but not a boxing movie. Also, it seemed that this was Rocky I set in the past. Haven’t seen it and since I haven’t been able to see Star Wars II yet, I probably won’t.

  6. Heya Ninja!
    I don’t know what they were thinking naming the movie “Cinderella Man” because it just makes ZERO sense for the audience you want to pull into the show — boxing fans!
    As well, I believe your “Rocky” analogy is on target.

  7. David,
    I’m resurrecting this article! I felt the same way about this movie and had absolutely no interest in seeing it! Then I got a call from my sister who said to go see this movie and that every kid in America should watch it . . .
    People think they know what starving and poor is. Yes, there are many people hurting today. That is true. I work with a great many of them and we do the best we can with resources to fill in the gaps.
    But even with the recession upon us, middle class parents are still overindulging their children.
    This movie, however, will take you to that place in a way that you could never explain to your children or understand yourself because we didn’t live it! The Great Depression. And it’s a true story about boxer Jim Braddock. To compare this movie to Rocky would be like comparing a good burger against a perfect steak. I loved Rocky but this movie is at another level altogether.
    And if you love Paul Giamatti the way I do, that’s just another reason to see this movie.
    I know. I know. Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger. I have become sick of them too.
    But don’t let it stop you from seeing this great film.
    I don’t buy too many films on DVD but thanks for reminding me that I need to add this to my collection.

  8. Donna!
    Thank you for resurrecting this article! When that happens, I go back and “re-format it” so it looks better with some white eye spacing we lost in in the translation to MT4.
    I appreciate your rigorous defense the film!
    As a history lesson, it has great value — as a movie, it leaves a lot to be desired.