Howard has got but a single message to deliver here -- boxer Braddock as the populist American hero of the Depression era - and he beats us over the head with his uplifting haymaker until we're crumbled on the canvas and crying for mercy.
Ron Howard's Depression-era ode to second chances and noble contests, filmed here last summer, is not just another boxing movie or just another picture. It's a completely absorbing and artfully made fairy tale that just so happens to be true.
Most serious movies live in a world of cynicism and irony, and most good-hearted movie characters live in bad movies. Here is a movie where a good man prevails in a world where every day is an invitation to despair.
Howard's relentless and flat-footed attack on our sympathies slips into monotony. The first half drags on for longer than it should, as we're told over and over that people were poor, very poor. Depressed even. Because it was the Depression.
The conventional wisdom is that Howard is a sentimentalist who needs Crowe to give his films edge. I prefer to think of the director as one in the handful of Hollywood filmmakers who still know how to make mass entertainment not based on a comic book.
Cinderella Man consistently delivers less than it wants to by trying for more than it should. The movie tells the story of Braddock's life as redemptive fairy tale, fitting the fighter for a glass slipper that ends up being the movie's glass jaw.
Cinderella Man takes the almost impossibly perfect elements of the saga of underdog boxer James J. Braddock and fills it with emotional gravitas, wrenching danger and a panoramic sense of American life during the Great Depression.