This doesn't bode well for a good Da Vinci Code movie...


Written on 10:11 PM by Jack B.

Ron Howard's Cinderella Man is getting rave reviews all over the place and I suppose thats to be expected. In my opinion despite the fact Russell Crowe is like off-screen, on-screen he's one of the greatest movie actors in the world today. And when he want to be Ron Howard can be both a moving, emotional and excellent director - I'm a big fan of Willow, Parenthood, and Apollo 13. Howard can also, however, be a king of popular big-budget schlock like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and overblown glorified TV-Movies like A Beautiful Mind (which somehow won the Best Picture Oscar). Its too soon to tell what the movie version of the Da Vince Code will be like (besides the virulent anti-Catholicism basic to the book) but Howard's past twisting of history to suit him does not bode well. In Beautiful Mind, he and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman side-stepped and ignored facts about protagonist John Nash's like the fact he was married several times in the past (and not just to his movie wife), he had several hetero and homosexual affairs, while married, and also he fathered a child out-of-wedlock in his twenties. Putting things like that in would have made Nash a more complicated character (just like in real life) but it also didn't go with the "image" Howard wanted to show about his film's "hero" so they were cut.

Now in Cinderella Man, Howard has again changed history to suit his needs and in the process has ruined the name of a good man and former Heavyweight Champion of the World ( and the man "Cinderella's" hero, James Braddock beat for the title), Max Baer Sr, who's dead so he can't respond.

From the San Jose Mercury News: `Cinderella Man' does Baer an injustice, some say

Everyone agrees that James J. Braddock, the hero of ``Cinderella Man,'' was a good guy. But was Max Baer, the man Braddock defeated for the heavyweight title, a villain?

The movie paints Baer as a one-dimensional bad character. But Bert Sugar and Larry Merchant, two longtime observers of the fight trade, say the film does Baer an injustice.

Baer did kill one opponent in the ring. Another later died from boxing injuries, perhaps incurred in part during a fight with Baer. Both Merchant and Sugar also agree the film accurately captures how Baer could be a clown in the ring.

``But he wasn't a bad guy at all,'' said Merchant, an HBO boxing commentator. ``He was one of the predecessors to Muhammad Ali as a guy who loved the media. He was a big, handsome guy who loved the ladies.''

Sugar believes filmmaker Ron Howard needed to make Baer look like a thug so Braddock could be perceived as more gallant.

``The truth didn't work to their end, so they Hollywood-ized the story,'' Sugar said.

Something else doesn't ring true, he added. He called the real Braddock-Baer bout ``the worst heavyweight championship fight in history.'' He said Baer threw the only punch of consequence - and it was by accident. Braddock, a huge underdog, won the close decision by outjabbing Baer.

``But Ron Howard isn't going to make a movie where two guys stand there like Madame Tussaud's wax works types,'' Sugar said.

From The Lima News (of Ohio): Some Baer facts on ‘Cinderella Man’s’ Max

Forty-six years after his death, Max Baer is getting the worst reviews of his life.
Baer was a high, wide and handsome character who, in the 1930s, won and lost boxing’s biggest prize in the space of 364 days, laughing all the while.
Now he’s back, bigger — and meaner — than life in “Cinderella Man,” director Ron Howard’s heart-tugging story of Jim Braddock, who fought to feed his family in the depths of the Depression and ended up taking the heavyweight championship from Baer 70 years ago next week.

“Cinderella Man” has been called everything from a true-life “Rocky” to “Seabiscuit” on two legs to perhaps the best movie of the year, and it might be all of the above. “Cinderella Man” is the feel-good hit of the season — except to the family, fans and friends of Max Baer.

Baer was an impressive figure of a man with a devastating right hand. In the movie, he’s portrayed by Craig Bierko as an arrogant, trash-talking bully. In reviews, Philip Wuntch of the Dallas Morning News referred to “the infamous Baer” and Chris Hewitt of the St. Paul Pioneer Press to “brutal Max Baer.” Christy Lemire of The Associated Press called Bierko’s performance “convincingly slimy” and Robert W. Butler of the Kansas City Star described Baer as “a testosterone-fueled brute.”

Following the script, reviewers have accepted the idea that Baer killed two men in the ring. As for the first, there is ample evidence that Baer, though cleared of any wrongdoing, was deeply remorseful. His second “victim” fought four more times after meeting Baer, dying months later after being knocked out by Primo Carnera.

The movie stretches the tenuous notion of Baer the killer until it loses touch with reality. In a nightclub scene before the climactic fight, a leering, sneering Baer suggests he might kill Braddock, too, and then “comfort” his widow. Jer-emy Schaap’s recent book on Braddock and Baer, which coincidentally shares a title with the movie, gives no indica-tion that such an encounter ever took place. Baer’s son, actor Max Baer Jr., labeled the scene “a lie.”

Nobody who knew Baer would recognize the thug in the movie. To sportswriters, he was Madcap Maxie, the good-time champ. Schaap describes him as a charmer, a wisecracker, a guy who “more than anything else, … liked to make people laugh.”

The only reason anybody ever got mad at Max was that they thought he should be the greatest heavyweight ever, and he wasn’t. He preferred chasing women and living the high life to sweating away in a smelly gym. If that makes Max Baer a bad guy, I guess I’m a bad guy too.

Trouble is, just as a movie needs a hero, it needs a heavy. In this case, the real villain is the Depression. But cine-matically, that’s pretty abstract. As Braddock (Russell Crowe) observes in the film, “There’s no point punching things you can’t see.”

So that leaves Baer.

Another article from Slate: How Cinderella Man sucker punches the Jewish boxer Max Baer. By David Fellerath about Baer's Jewish heritage of which he was proud.

And of course, there's the reaction of former Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies, Max Baer Jr., who is justifably upset - Son raises dukes over Baer 'facts'

TV's Jethro is fightin' mad about his father's portrayal in Russell Crowe's
Cinderella Man.Max Baer Jr., who starred in The Beverly Hillbillies and was
named after his prizefighter pop, says Cinderella director Ron Howard unfairly
pounded his dad in the biopic of Depression-era boxer James J. Braddock, the New
York Daily News reports.Baer Jr. bristles at how the movie portrays his father
as a thug who glories in killing two opponents in the ring.

"That's a lie," Baer Jr. tells the Daily News. "My
father cried about what happened to (Baer ring victim) Frankie Campbell. He had
nightmares. He helped put Frankie's children through college." But Howard
spokeswoman Leslee Dart defends the characterization, saying the elder Baer
needed to be vilified, you know, for artistic purposes:"The script was written
from the point of view of the Braddock family. To them, Max Baer was a real

Here's a good review that points out the wrong done Baer even while acknowledging the film's better points:
“Cinderella Man” Winner by a Split Decision

However, in turning up the anticipation volume as Jimmy Braddock begins his quest out of the slums and into heavyweight title contention, the filmmakers thought it advantageous to make the reigning champ a villain.

Therefore Max Baer, generally credited with killing two opponents in the ring, is portrayed as a monster on several levels: Not only will he kill you, but also insult your wife, and with a lascivious tone yet. Adding insult to injury, a marvelous Craig Bierko is entirely convincing as the baddy.

But go home after the film, pull out the old boxing encyclopedia, and you'll find neither the words killer nor lout next to Mr. Baer's name. In fact, most pundits of pugilism agree that the guy was pretty likeable, that he actually didn't take anything too seriously…that if he did, he might have had a more memorable championship.

In other words, the fix is in.

It isn't as much a moral question as it is one of form and protocol. We want our screenwriters to mine the real drama, not apply some expedient. What if the film were about Mr. Baer instead of Mr. Braddock? Could we then rely on the depiction of Mr. Braddock

The point I'm trying to make in all this is that if Ron Howard is willing to blacken an actual historical (and innocent) man to make his story points, imagine what he'd do with Dan Brown's pseudo-history (which is basically fiction with a few dashes of facts thrown in to make it seem believable)in The Da Vinci Code movie in which the Catholic Church in particular and historical orthodox Christians in general are seen as liar, murderers, and just plain evil. Uh oh. Something tells me that even with Tom Hanks starring this is not something I'm going to want to watch.

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