December 20, 2006, - 3:20 pm

Mid-Week Box Office: Classic Rocky Returns for a Fitting, Dignified Conclusion

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.

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14 Responses

You haven’t trained until you train to box. 20 minutes on a heavy bag wears my a** out. Aerobic stamina to make a 100 mile marathoner envious. Sudden bursts of stunning anabolic power. 10 maybe 12 rounds. I guarantee that most superbly developed athletes couldn’t go three rounds. That Sly can do even the filmed and edited ‘fix-it-in-the-mix’ rounds at 60 is the kind of shout for joy that fills my heart with triumph. Manly men being manly men. I love this series and can’t wait to get to a theatre. The ultimate ‘over-coming’ films. Puts a lump in my throat. And Stallone, if you ever meet him, is a class act of a human being.

Johnny Yuma on December 20, 2006 at 4:51 pm

Debbie quit being such a star F’er. But I’ll still go with you to any movies you need to review and offer snacks and pithy comments.

Anonymous1 on December 20, 2006 at 7:59 pm

Debbie, that is a great photo. You look great.

Irish Poet on December 20, 2006 at 8:19 pm

A woman travel agent I once consulted who had photo of her and Duran Duran (20 years later) under the plexiglass of her desk. Whatever. But you look soooooooo happy! Gotta luv it! I hope you interview him regarding his opinions on 9/11, national security, etc. Wouldn’t that be a scoop?
Anyway, it takes a champ to recognize a champ.

Jeremiah on December 20, 2006 at 11:12 pm

Debbie: off topic, but please give a shout out to Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia, who has called for limitations on Muslim immigration to the US.
CAIR is in full effect vs. the good Rep:

sonomaca on December 21, 2006 at 1:25 am

One other note: Rep. Goode is justified in his concern. The Muslims in Europe employ a practice called “fetching” whereby the European-born offspring of immigrants are married ONLY to spouses from back home (usually first of second cousins).
So, instead of one couple producing 3 children, you now have 2 couples producing six in the first generation. In the second generation, instead of 3 couples producing 9 children, you have 6 couples producing 18. And so on.
Three-quarters of Muslims in the UK, Holland, Belgium, Norway and Sweden do this, which is why it’s only a matter of time before most of Western Europe is Muslim.

sonomaca on December 21, 2006 at 1:34 am

Johnny Yuma,
You’re correct. Try dancing around a heavy bag and punching it for three minutes and it’s some workout – not to mention 15 rounds with 60 seconds between each trying to catch your breath. In fact, the new exercise fad of today is “boxercise”.
BTW, you said; “Sudden bursts of stunning anabolic power.” You meant to say; “Sudden bursts of stunning anaerobic power.” However, I know what you mean.
To sonomaca,
I saw this controversy on the Fox news show. He’s correct, and he’s got guts because the LIBS will be tarring him as a racist and islamophobe. I’ve been to northern Virginia recently (especially the areas in and around Vienna, VA), and I can tell you that there are huge muzlum populations there. In fact, some of the 9/11 hijackers rented apartments in Vienna, VA. It’s a real damn shame. I hope he at least he starts a national dialogue about this.

Thee_Bruno on December 21, 2006 at 11:15 am

WOWÖyou have perfect teethÖare you sure your Dad wasn’t a dentist?!

The Canadien on December 21, 2006 at 11:22 am

Yeah, she does have perfect teeth.

Thee_Bruno on December 21, 2006 at 11:38 am

“WOW?you have perfect teeth?are you sure your Dad wasn’t a dentist?!” – The Canadien
“Yeah, she does have perfect teeth.” – Thee_Bruno

Asudo Nimh on December 21, 2006 at 1:05 pm

Debbie you’re totally my type.

Anonymous1 on December 21, 2006 at 9:14 pm

(Dis is for the idiot reviewer at the Detroit
Metro Times rag,who gave ‘Rocky Balboa’ a C-):I look forward to seeing this;George Foreman-who I believe is the ultimate statement of success and the greatness of America,also had “man-boobs” at 45 when he stopped Michael Moorer in ten(Mr. “boxing expert”).Regarding “girlie-man” issues,the first person I ever heard use the phrase-Ahnold Schwarzenneger-I still consider to be a poster-boy for “girlie-manhood”;he’s also the first male I ever heard use the word “cut” referring to the male physiques.Paulie’s watercolor painting may not be a major “girlie-man” event.The late Mickey Walker-one of the all-time boxing greats-became a fairly seriously regarded painter,when he retired.(The Gay…whoops
“boxing community” should be concerned about the announcement on that..Madonna…is set to make her directorial debut on the Emile Griffith-Benny Kid Paret fight(1962)which ended in a fatality…and has…a Gay theme…

jaywilton on December 22, 2006 at 10:39 am

Debbie: Japanese Warrior ethos: Pen and sword. Art does not a girly man make.

Occam's Tool on February 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Excellent review.

Eben on November 1, 2014 at 4:17 am

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