Million Dollar Baby is the conventional movie that everyone's sure to like a lot, but not to love. Clint Eastwood does everything right, the script is simultaneously engaging, funny, and sad. The star performances are flawless, but it's not the kind of movie that inspires debate.
The story revolves around a boxing facility where Frankie (Eastwood) takes on Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank) and trains her to win a title match. But Frankie's tragic past forces him to be overprotective of his boxers. He's too protective for his own good. The final payoff of the film is beautiful; it is simple, but it works on many levels. And it was so well-timed, it made me forget how slow the third act of the film was.
Morgan Freeman essentially plays the same character he played in The Shawshank Redemption. Though his constant "voice-of-reason" voiceover seems cliche, it's too interesting and dryly funny to be a distraction. Baby racked up five Golden Globe nominations, and it is visually and emotionally entertaining enough to earn a few Oscar nods as well. It's the kind of movie that's impossible not to like, but that may not be good enough. The best picture of the year should be controversial and should spark debate among viewers and critics. Baby is just too good to be great.