As anyone who's watched Rocky V can tell you, it's difficult to go far wrong with even a duff boxing film. There's a built-in drama to the thump'n'thud, bob'n'weave of even a staged boxing match that gives passion and excitement to the weakest of flicks. However, the bulk of Ron Howard's Depression-era ringmaster Jim Braddock biopic is far too concerned with summoning up the spirit of soup kitchens and dole queues. Clichés are mishmashed further as Russell Crowe gurns his way through another honourable Ordinary Joe role.
The deleted scenes show that Howard sliced lumps out of this guff, but the end result is still painfully worthy. You're left feeling that Howard doesn't really care about the boxing; it's more a hook to hang his social commentary on. But even though he slips them to the side, it's the scenes Crowe spends with his manager (another stealing support from Paul Giamatti), not wife Renée Zellweger, that really makes Braddock come alive. What a shame these sections feel like afterthoughts.
The disc has a featurette where author and boxing aficionado Norman Mailer talks Howard, writer Akiva Goldsman and producer Brian Grazer through the real-life fight between Braddock and heavyweight champ Max Baer. If only any of them had half the boxing knowledge and passion Mailer displays, Cinderella Man could've been a real contender. Instead of the dreary bum it is.