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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How Ron Howard Makes Blockbusters (A Flowchart)

Just The Facts
  1. Ron Howard is a former child actor who has directed some of the most financially successful and critically acclaimed films of the past 10 years.
  2. His critically acclaimed movies are usually inspirational
  3. His blockbusters, 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' ($260 million), 'The Davinci Code' ($217 million) and 'Angels & Demons' ($155 million world wide this weekend) rely on a much stranger secret formula.

Ron Howard's Loose Grasp of 'True Stories'

While we've already pointed out the liberties that A Beautiful Mind and Frost / Nixon took with the truth, the historical boxing drama, Cinderella Man, is perhaps his greatest up-yours to historical accuracy. In the film, a down on his luck blue-collar boxer named James Braddock has to fight a terrifying heavyweight champion named Max Baer.

The movie is basically Rocky meets the Great Depression meets Rocky IV. There are of course a few key differences from the Rocky franchise, in addition to the Depression setting. For instance, Braddock is a down on his luck Irish city dweller, not a down on his luck Italian guy. And unlike in Rocky IV, his opponent unapologetically kills two people in the ring, not just one. Also, Cinderella Man probably isn't quite as historically accurate as Rocky IV.

Sure, Braddock fought Baer, and yes Baer killed a man in the ring. But he did it accidentally, and felt so bad about it that he spent the rest of his life donating the money he made fighting to the guy's widow and family.

In Cinderella Man, Howard makes Baer approximately as repetant as Jason Vorhees. Outside the ring, Howards version of Baer is basically a high school bully from an 80s movie with less emotional complexity, and worse hair. Sort of a dick move, since the guy was reportedly kind and charismatic, and spent his entire life trying to make amends for the accidents.

In fact, a tortured super star who spends the rest of his life trying to make up for his in-ring brutality might have been a more interesting character to make a movie about. But that would of course require subtlety, which isn't Mr. Howard's strong suit.