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This week's question: 

What was wrong with "Cinderella Man"?  I know something was wrong, but I just can't put my finger on it.


This week's Answer: 

To Much Goodness Goes A Long Way

Have you tried putting a thumb on it, Errol?  Or how about a toe?  But if you insist on a finger, so be it.  I believe that Cinderella Man, for all its positive qualities, could have been an even better cinematic experience for us all if it hadn't fallen into a trap that many screenplays have unwittingly found themselves in.  This trap could be likened to a speed trap in a small town.  The allegory continues because, just like a speed trap, by the time you realize you've sped into one, it's too late.  This small town with the trap could be called Maudlinville or Sentimentalburg.  Or how about Take Yourself Too Seriously City?  All little towns that you want to avoid at all costs.  

Even though the story was based on the real life of a real boxer in the 1930's, a proud , courageous,, and generous man, the way he was depicted was just too good to be true -- even if all of it was true.  The story isn't allowed enough balance on the teeter totter because there's a big sack of self-pity holding it down.  There's not enough humor in the telling.  I say it again.  There's not enough...


The story is too obvious, to predictable.  The only twists in it are when the prizefighter moves to avoid punches.  We're the ones punched silly with the same idea over and over again.  Yes, he and his pathetic wife and children are very poor.  We got that.  An hour ago.  Here comes another scene and... Okay, that's different.  Now we know that he and his family are still poor.  That was a shock.  

The screenwriters had quite a challenge before them.  In a sense, they were already down for the count before they started.  First, Cinderella Man is a bio-pic.  It's not easy to write dramatically when you have to follow the life of somebody.  Let's face it:  most of our lives are quite dull -- especially when you compare them to the fictitious ones we watch on the screen.  For some reason, people are just not willing to live their lives so they will coincide well with a three-act structure.  Curse them to Bad Screenwriting Software Hell, I say.  If someone isn't going to have the decency to have an early inciting incident in their lives and also some intermittent plot points, then who needs them?!  And don't even get me started about their lack of twists!

Second, Cinderella Man is a sports story, and we all know that most sports stories end up with the protagonist winning.  (Except for Friday Night Lights.  I still say  they would have won hands down if they had played on Saturday).  It's up to the screenwriter to come up with a fresh way to keep us involved as we head for the big win at the end of the film.  And it is here where  the screenplay of Cinderella Man holds its own.  We truly enjoy the uphill battle the fighter must wage to finally surface as the victor.  (But I still didn't cry as much as I did when I saw Rocky.  The original one, that is.  I think by Rocky 56, where Rocky takes on the dark forces of Galaxy Zod, I was starting to be less moved by his victories.)  Still, the authors of Cinderella Man could have thrown in a few more surprises during the final fight.  At least Clint did something different with the fighter's stool in I Made Millions of Dollars from this Baby.

All in all, Cinderella Man, is a heart-warming story that highlights bravery and goodness.   But I believe we would have appreciated all that bravery and goodness just as much without having to be assaulted by them. 

And, from what I hear, both Bravery and Goodness have a mean uppercut.



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