Cinderella Man (2005)

(On DVD, February 2006) I’ve seen this film before, except that it featured a horse and was called Seabiscuit. I know, I know, but what can one say about two depression-era sports drama released two years apart, especially when they’re both meant to represent an elusive “triumph of the American spirit?” As you may guess from the premise (down-on-his-luck boxer gets a second chance), this is old-fashioned Hollywood movie-making in more ways than one: sweeping period recreation coupled with solidly conventional moral values. Thankfully, Ron Howard’s workmanlike direction is efficient, and once you get past the inevitable “ooh, we’re poor” moments to get into the sport sequences, Cinderella Man becomes surprisingly effective. Russel Crowe does fine in the title role, and “Da Vinci” Nicholas Campbell has a crunchy supporting role as a sport journalist. Perhaps too conventional to be worth more than a good look, this is nonetheless a professional work of mainstream cinema. Yes, it’s still Seabiscuit in a ring. But don’t let that dissuade you from this film if ever you find yourself in the mood for something so classic it could have been made at any moment since the seventies.

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