A man becomes a boxer to provide for his family during The Great Depression.
"The Lord of the Ring"
I usually will only take the time to review movies on this site if they're notably good or laughably terrible. Well I'm breaking the trend, because notably good doesn't even begin to describe how incredible this movie was. Cinderella Man was about as good as you can get from start to finish. No boring parts, no cheesy sections, none of that. Just two hours and twenty minutes of non-stop courage and heart. In fact, Cinderella Man was so good, that I'm about to pay it the ultimate compliment: It's the most inspiring movie since the Shawshank Redemption. Movies of that quality come around once in a decade. The 2000's version will undoubtedly be the story of James J. Braddock.
I won't delve into the details of the story too much, since anyone who saw the previews of the movie pretty much got the general idea. But it basically follows the life of a former boxing legend who's forced to go back into the ring to provide for his family during the Great Depression. As Braddock starts piling up wins, he captures the heart of the nation and qualifies to fight the World Heavyweight Champion.
Cinderella Man has everything you could ask for in a sports movie. The characters are on point with the lovable underdog, Russell Crowe, the wet-blanket female, Renee Zellweger, who tries to discourage our hero only to support him at the last minute, and the funny partner, Paul Giamatti, who actually could have been a little funnier. The storyline is set with an impossible situation to overcome, a family on the line, and a nation starving for a hero. And to top it off, the thing's a true story to boot! That's always a plus. When a sports movie is based on a true story, you get the opportunity to live a moment in history that you missed, plus it cuts down on cheesy predictable last-second slow motion endings.
So the setting was perfect, but what really threw this movie over the top was the undying spirit possessed by James Braddock. I ate it up. I love that kind of thing. When you give me a person who's put in an impossible situation, but just refuses to quit no matter what, then you've got me hooked. I don't care if it's Andy Dufrense, Kevin Garnett, or Stephenie from Survivor gutting it out in the final immunity challenge until she collapses, there's nothing like that level of determination that gets me more fired up.
So in short, Cinderella Man brought it all... except for Morgan Freeman doing some clever narration. If they could have somehow snuck old Red into the equation, then Shawshank would have gotten a run for it's money. But life's not as much about being perfect as it is about giving your best. And I don't think anybody knew that better than James J. Braddock.