Thursday, December 21, 2006

Belated Balboa

Blogger has caused many headaches for a new film ick recruit - so, I'm going to pop her Rocky Balboa review up myself, while she irons out wrinkles and gets plenty more ready.

Rocky Balboa review, courtesy of Lady Sheridan:

I will be honest and say I have never seen any Rocky film but the first one, and it was so long ago that I barely remember it. I don’t know the plot of II or III, though I understand he becomes a sell-out and has to find the Eye of the Tiger, or something. Rocky IV I know largely thanks to VH1’s I Love the 80’s series and a fondness for pop culture Communism. To me, Rocky has always been a joke. A pop culture relic. Something you named your dog if you wanted your dog to be made fun of by everyone at the dog park.

So, when I heard they had actually allowed Stallone to make Rocky VI, like most people I thought it was the biggest joke imaginable. There was no possible way this could be good. And when it was rumored it might play at Butt Numb-A-Thon 8, I groaned. I told my friends that I really hoped this didn’t come true. “There’s no way I can get through it without laughing my ass off,” I said. “Harry Knowles will kick me out for mocking it.” But play it did and when that theme came on, it was infectious. I cheered with everyone else and found myself getting way into the final chapter of the Italian Stallion. At the end, I was forced to admit that Rocky Balboa was indeed a good film.

Rocky Balboa is essentially one big homage to Rocky I. Rocky is down on his luck and he’s at the end of his life. He’s lost Adrian and he’s desperate for his son’s attention. His son wants little to do with him because he can’t get out from under his father’s shadow. His old neighborhood is a ghetto, even the pet store where Adrian worked is a landfill. He’s clinging desperately to the past, spending his days with Pauley and his evenings mugging it up in his restaurant for his fans. His restaurant is nothing but a shrine to his glory days, the walls are lined with photos of Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed. It’s just...sad. He’s that guy in a bar you avoid because you might get stuck listening to a pathetic story.

The film begins with his yearly pilgrimage to all the spots he shared with Adrian. The evening finds him in a bar, where meets a woman named Marie. It turns out he had once walked a teenage Marie home from school and lectured her about smoking. She called him a creep and ran off. Now Marie is a single mom, scraping a living as a bartender. Rocky, eager for this tenuous connection to the past, befriends her and her son. He replaces their broken out light bulbs and gives them jobs in his restaurant.

Meanwhile, we get introduced to a cocky young fighter with the improssibly bad name of Mason Dixon. Dixon gets no respect. He knocks out fighters too soon, has plenty of belts but no fans. No one feels he’s ever been truly challenged. On a lark, ESPN puts a computerized Mason Dixon against a computerized Rocky Balboa—and Rocky wins. Dixon seethes. You know where this is going.

So yes, there’s a training montage (“Even Rocky had a montage!”) chock full of references to the Rocky I training montage. Yes, everyone predicts Rocky will lose. Dixon even offers to take it easy on him so he can come out with some pride intact. Rocky refuses.

Does Rocky win? Come on. What do you think? At any rate, I’m not telling you. You’re going to have to buy the ticket to find out. For my own part, that I predicted that Dixon would take a cheap shot, break Rocky’s neck and that Pauley was going to have to do for him what Daddy did for Axel....

Rocky Balboa is no Citizen Kane, but it’s no Rocky V either. It’s a fun movie, a fitting farewell to one of the biggest pop culture icons of the 20th century. I will even go so far to say that it’s almost comforting to revisit, like that battered sports jersey you wear on the weekends. If you’re a Rocky fan, go see it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. Enthuse much?
I really don't think Rocky needed any sequels. The direct sequels (2, 3 & 4) have lame comedy value but only with hindsight. 5 was just a dirty piece of filth using the cliched "knock a character to his very lowest before giving him a moment of glory" hook. The problem here is that as the character Rocky is always looking back to his prime, so is the franchise. It has to keep looking back and reminding us how good the 1st film was because the producers can't figure out a way to bring anyting fresh to the screen. This new film sounds the same. Pass.