Music Composed By: Thomas Newman
Distributed By: Universal Classics
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Welcome to the Depression Era. A time where people were at an all-time low. Jobs were hard to find and money was a scarce commodity. The down-trodden and weary souls of the world needed a hero. They found one in James J. Brodderick, a down-on-his-luck fighter who had seemingly hit rock bottom, his boxing career at an end. When all seemed lost, Brodderick, played by Russell Crowe, refused to give up hope. In a last ditch effort to save his family from devastating poverty, Brodderick decides to return to the ring. No one believed he could do it. No one, that is, but Brodderick, who amazingly won bout after bout, becoming everyone’s Cinderella Man, a hero who faced adversity and beat it soundly about the head.
The soundtrack to Cinderella Man is a mixture of musical composition and Depression Age music. Shim-Me-Sha-Wobble performed by Miff Mole and His Molers, Tillie’s Downtown Now performed by Bud Freeman and His Windy City Five, Londonderry Air performed by Paul Giamatti, We’ve Got to Put That Sun Back Into the Sky performed by Roane’s Pennsylvanians, and Cheer Up! Smile! Nertz! Performed by Eddie Cantor with Phil Spitalny’s Music, give the listener a feel for the times with their Depression Era tone. The rest of the soundtrack consists of music composed by Thomas Newman, a man who has been dubbed the most versatile composer to date, with soundtrack credits that range from Fried Green Tomatoes to Desperately Seeking Susan to Phenomenon. Newman has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Musical Score for The Shawshank Redemption, Little Women, Unstrung Heroes, American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Finding Nemo, and for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures for his original score in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
There is no way to describe this album except to say “Welcome to the Depression Era”. The times were harsh and the goings rough. The score for Cinderella Man is equal to the task of depressing the listener. There is a hint of Irish flair in a couple of the songs. One such tune was upbeat and completely enjoyable, though it came entirely too late in the soundtrack to excite the listener. And the unusual name of the track – Turtle – does nothing to give the listener any inkling as to what the lilting, joyous music is all about. Arguably, the most enjoyable track is the Depression Era ditty Cheer Up! Smile! Nertz!, which does an excellent job in describing the feeling of the impoverished during the days of the Depression: “The world's in the red / We're better off dead / Depression, they say's in session to stay. / Our judges are queer / Our banks disappear / And all the while, they tell us to smile: / Cheer up, gentle citizens, though you have no shirts / Happy days are here again. Cheer up, smile, nertz! / All aboard prosperity, giggle 'till it hurts / No more bread-line charity. Cheer up, smile, nertz!” A song that should appear in the beginning of the CD ends up the 25th and last track.
While the music may fit in perfectly with the scenes in the movie, as a stand alone soundtrack, Cinderella Man just simply doesn’t cut the mustard. Thankfully, the tracks, though many, are short, but in no ways or means sweet. The Cinderella Man soundtrack is as depressing as was the era the story evolved in. This is a soundtrack best left in the movie and not reproduced in album form.