Cinderella Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this double-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like the movie itself, the transfer of Cinderella Man was good but not extraordinary.
Sharpness looked fine for the most part. I thought some wide shots were a little too soft, partially due to the presence of some light edge enhancement. Most of the movie came across as acceptably concise and accurate, though. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no signs of print flaws.
As one might expect from a period piece like this, colors remained quite subdued. The movie usually boasted a sepia feel without many distinctive tones. The occasional flash of color looked appropriate within the design, and the hues seemed fine for what they were. Blacks came across as full and well-developed, while shadow detail was quite good. Especially when the Braddocks lost electrical power, we got a lot of low-light scenes, and the DVD presented these with solid clarity. Nothing went terribly amiss here, but I didn’t think the image deserved a grade above a “B”, mainly due to the issues related to sharpness.
I felt the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Cinderella Man also fell into “B” territory, mainly due to a lack of sonic ambition. I thought this mix would open up more than it did. Boxing matches brought some life to the proceedings, as they showed decent spread to the sides. However, they lacked much zing, and the surrounds usually stayed a little more passive than I’d expect for depictions of a spectator sport.
At least the forward speakers worked fine. In addition to the boxing scenes, other shots offered nice imaging across the front. These featured a fair amount of unique information and contributed a good sense of place. Music also demonstrated solid stereo delineation.
Across the board, audio quality remained positive. Speech was consistently firm and natural, with no edginess or other issues. Music showed good warmth and range, while effects were concise and clean. Bass wasn’t remarkable, but the low-end added kick when appropriate. This was a perfectly serviceable track.
On this two-sided disc, we get a mix of extras. Side One features three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Ron Howard, as he gives us a running, screen-specific discussion. I wouldn’t call Howard a scintillating speaker, but he covers his work in a full manner.
Howard tells us about the personal origins of his interest in doing the film, the actors’ training, improvisation and interactions, research and artistic license, cinematography, lighting and camerawork, music, set design and shooting in Toronto, costume design and attempts at period realism. Howard handles everything in a clear, matter of fact way. Again, he doesn’t come across as a particularly exciting speaker, but he fills the time with good information and makes this a worthwhile commentary.
Next we hear from screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. He brings us his own running, screen-specific chat. Unfortunately, Goldsman’s track proves to be much less successful than Howard’s. Goldsman discusses characters and story issues along with research and notes from the set.
Occasionally Goldsman throws out some nice tidbits, but much of the time he does little more than narrate the film. He also goes quiet frequently, and that leaves us with lots of dead air. And I do mean lots of dead air; this becomes a serious nuisance. I don’t think we learn enough unique information to make Goldsman worth a listen.
Finally, we get a commentary from writer Cliff Hollingsworth. He offers his own running, screen-specific chat. Hollingsworth wrote the original drafts of the screenplay, and much of his conversation discusses how it differs from the final film. Hollingsworth gets into what parts of the movie come from his version and tells us what changes others made. He also goes over some issues with research as well as the many examples of artistic license; Hollingsworth makes sure we know what was fact and what was fantasy. That subject alone turns this into a good commentary. Some dead air occurs, but at least Hollingsworth’s chat doesn’t suffer from the acres of nothing found in Goldsman’s commentary.
My only real disappointment comes from the fact we learn nothing of how Hollingsworth collaborated with the filmmakers – if he did so at all. Throughout the track, he refers to the team of Howard, Goldsman and Russell Crowe as “them” and he never seems very warm towards the filmmakers. Did they take his work and cut him out of the mix? I don’t know, but I sure don’t get the impression that Hollingsworth is on particularly good terms with “them”. I can’t say I’m surprised he doesn’t dish dirt – if there’s any to explore – but I’d like to know what happened with his script after he finished it and what input he did or didn’t have. Even without those notes, however, this ends up as a useful discussion.
Side One opens with some Previews. We get ads for Gladiator, Law and Order, and Pride & Prejudice.
As we move to Side Two, we launch with seven Deleted Scenes. This area opens with an introduction from Howard, as he gives us an overview of the material. From there we find 21 minutes of footage.
In these clips, we see: more with Jim and Joe in his salad days; desperation in the work line; Jim and Joe talk about his future; an extended version of Jim’s attempt to hide his broken hand; the Braddocks stand in the bread line; Jim sells his shoes; and Jim reads Roosevelt’s inauguration speech over a montage of work-related bits.
Virtually all of these clips feel redundant and unnecessary. The shots of Jim at his peak are the most useful since we don’t see much of that, but we also don’t need this information; the shorter version in the final cut offers more than enough material in that regard. The rest come across as repetitive. They do little more than beat us over the head with Jim’s woes, and we don’t require that.
We can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Howard. He presents perfunctory notes. Howard gives us quick remarks about why he cut the pieces but he doesn’t reveal much else.
A featurette entitled The Fight Card: Casting Cinderella Man fills 22 minutes and 58 seconds. This presents movie bits, behind the scenes materials, and interviews with Howard, casting director Jane Jenkins, producer Brian Grazer, and actors Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Bruce McGill, Paddy Considine, and Rosemarie Dewitt.
The show looks at Crowe’s training and approach to his role, finding the other actors and their work, research and more training, improvisation and interaction, and Howard’s direction of the actors. I think too much general praise pops up here, as we hear how great everyone is. Despite a lack of depth, some good notes can be found. We get a nice general look at how the actors got their parts and learn just enough to make this a useful piece.
Next we find The Man, The Movie, The Legend: A Filmmaking Journey. This 14-minute and two-second piece offers remarks from Howard, Crowe, Grazer, Zellweger, Goldsman, producer Penny Marshall, director of photography Salvatore Totino, production designer Wynn Thomas, costume designer Daniel Orlandi, and executive producer Todd Hallowell. The show gets into the genesis of the project, its themes and Braddock’s impact on his era, Howard’s interest in the Depression, photographic and production design choices, costumes, locations, and inflatable extras. Some of this material repeats from the commentary, especially when we hear from Howard. However, the issues related to the visuals present nice insights. The show flies by too quickly for great depth, but it works fine overall.
For the Record: A History in Boxing goes for six minutes, 39 seconds. It includes statements from boxing consultant Angelo Dundee as it looks at his work on the film. We also hear from Howard and boxing trainer Wayne Gordon as we get notes on Crowe’s boxing training and Dundee’s other efforts on Cinderella Man. This adds up to a neat little examination of Dundee’s contributions.
During the nine-minute and 11-second Ringside Seats, we get a chat between Howard, Grazer, Goldsman and novelist Norman Mailer as they watch clips from the actual Braddock-Baer bout. They discuss the methods used and some background to the elements. It’s especially good to see the historical footage, and the commentary elaborates on the material well.
For the final featurette, we head to Jim Braddock: The Friends & Family Behind the Legend. The 11-minute and 12-second show includes some archival comments from Braddock along with notes from Howard, Crowe, son Howard Braddock, granddaughter Rosemarie Dewitt, and grandson Tim Braddock. They contribute a few notes about the facts behind this adaptation. We hear a lot that we already know, but the personal touch adds nice material, especially from Howard Braddock.
Side Two concludes with a Kodak Cinderella Man Gallery. I thought this two-minute piece would present photos from the film. Instead, it gives us a banal ad for Kodak. Boo!
Professional but unspectacular director presents Cinderella Man, another professional but unspectacular movie. The film entertains but lacks much substance and fails to turn into anything memorable. The DVD offers moderately above average picture and sound along with a pretty solid set of extras. This is a good DVD for a decent film.