December 20, 2006, - 3:20 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
Today, “Rocky Balboa” opens in theaters. I’ve already written two semi-reviews–here and here. And I’ve seen the movie twice. I liked it and recommend it. It’s especially great for those of us nostalgic for the Rocky of yesteryear. This film does not disappoint. It is vintage, classic Rocky. Our beloved Rocky, the symbol of everything that is great about America–hard work, grit, and the belief in yourself that you can succeed.
This 6th installment of the almost 31-year-old Rocky–written, directed, and starring Sylvester Stallone–is a fitting tribute, a fitting end to the Rocky series of movies. It has everything–the scenes of Rocky training, the run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the tune of “Gonna Fly Now,” Paulie, and flashbacks of Adrian (Talia Shire) and trainer Mickey Goldmill (the late, great Burgess Meredith) (both characters are now dead).
Rocky, still poor (he lost everything to bad accountants and bankruptcy in Rocky V), still lives in a humble, working-class Philadelphia neighborhood. The neighborhood is now more decrepit and gritty. The pet shop where Adrian once worked is papered over and abandoned. And Rocky’s son, Rocky, Jr., is now a stockbroker-trainee embarrassed by his father’s working-class aura and upset he lives in the shadow of his famous boxing champ dad.
Rocky works nights at his restaurant, where he tells fan/diners boxing tales, much like real-life boxer Rocky Marciano is said to have done in his twilight days.
But something is left unfinished. There is “still fire in the furnace,” and Rocky still has demons to fight, he tells Paulie. Hype over an ESPN computer-generated fight between the Rocky of yesteryear and the current undefeated heavyweight champ Mason “The Line” Dixon (played by real-life former boxer Antonio Tarver) makes Rocky yearn for one last fight, the fight of his life. His yearning for the deceased Adrian is one of those “demons.”
It is entertaining, if a little slow-moving at the beginning. It features a great pep talk about life delivered by Rocky to his son (played by Milo Ventimiglia), that is something like a Rocky version of Teddy Roosevelt’s great “Man in the Arena” speech. A father’s love for his son never gets old–even when both father and son do.
If there are any complaints with this movie, it’s the brief girlie-manification of Rocky & Company. I did not need to live to see Rocky and Paulie cry. Or Paulie painting watercolors. But the sensitive man is soon done away with, as Rocky trains for the big fight.
Like the other Rocky movies, there are no celeb actors in this movie, but for Stallone. There are cameos by real-life sports personalities. But the key co-stars (other than Paulie) are unknowns. Rocky takes a single mother–once a young girl he protected from the street life–and her son under his wing. He is kind to them. That’s the Rocky we always knew.
The scenes of Rocky fighting a man, Dixon/Tarver, who is more than 20 years his junior are somewhat incredible. But they are still inspirational, as is this classic Rocky film. And, unlike most, Stallone and Rocky are in great shape for a man of 60–and even a man of 40.
Stallone says he made this latest installment–more than 15 years since the last sequel–because he felt he let his fans down with Rocky V. This one is definitely a fitting ending. Rocky goes out with class, style, and above all, dignity.
There is no violence (except the boxing) or obscenity in this film. You can take your whole family to this one. It’s uplifting and agenda-free. It has the same feel-good inspiration that the first Rocky movie had in January 1976. That was a different time, another era.
But some things never get old. Rocky will always be a classic. And Rocky Balboa continues in that tradition.
Yo, Adrian! Rocky Is BACK!
Go see this film. And take your whole extended family.
Read, “One Last Bout for a Beloved [Rocky] Franchise” by USA Today’s Anthony Breznican. A great piece.
Tags: America, Anthony Breznican, Antonio Tarver, boxer, boxing, Debbie Schlussel, Dixon, Jr., Mickey Goldmill, Milo Ventimiglia, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, real-life boxer, real-life former boxer, real-life sports personalities, ROCKY, Rocky & Company, Rocky Balboa, Rocky Marciano, stockbroker, Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Teddy Roosevelt, USA Today