Paul Giamatti stars in “Gladiator 2: Cinderella Man”

I haven’t seen Cinderella Man yet, but man, the hype around this movie is building, and the momentum it’s gaining looks likely to guarantee it a spot as an Oscar favorite.

Think about it: It’s the Oscar-winning team of the vastly overrated A Beautiful MindRussell Crowe and Ron Howard, together again. But THIS time, Crowe is reprising his role as the Gladiator:

  • a thoughtful family man working hard for a living during tough times
  • forced to deal in violence in order to hold on to what he loves
  • the burden of a nation on his shoulders as he steps into the coliseum
  • faced with overcoming impossible odds and dealing with foes whose evil deeds ensure that they deserve the sensationalized violence we’ll see delivered
  • and all of this in front of an astonished crowd.

This time, though, Paul Giamatti, who has TWICE had sensational performances overlooked for Oscar nominations, will finally get that nomination. But it’ll be for the wrong movie. He’ll get it this time because he’s agreed to be part of a big glossy Hollywood movie where he’s playing a handsome hero’s sidekick. The Academy would much rather praise him for appearing in a big crowdpleaser than for doing stronger, more complicated work in something independent and less popular (American Splendor, Sideways.) And with THAT out of the way, you can bet that Giamatti won’t win a Best Actor Oscar anytime soon. His integrity, and his lack of celebrity ego, seems to disqualify him from being recognized in the ranks of Sean Penn and Russell Crowe, where he belongs.

At his blog, Peter Chattaway comes close to damning the film with faint praise.

 

…my wife and I saw the film not too long ago and we both liked it, but overall I find it as disposably entertaining as most of Howard’s films; indeed, much of it has already faded from my memory.

One thing that does kinda got on my nerves, actually, is the way pretty much all of the boxers Crowe meets in the ring are basically unsympathetic characters, to one degree or another. Everybody wants Crowe to win … the film has to make sure that we really, really won’t mind that he beats these people up.

Meanwhile, Chattaway also notes a report at The Revealer, where they’ve discovered that the film is being heavily promoted to the Christian audiences. It’ll be interesting to see what makes this film a hot choice specifically for the Christian market.

I want to like this film. I really really do. I want to see a Ron Howard film that makes me think I don’t have to approach his work anymore with that sense that I’m about to waste two hours of my life on crowdpleasing, challenge-free, predictable entertainment. But this smells like a movie designed by a committee, a product carefully calculated to win big box office and Academy Awards.

In less than a week, I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

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