Movies/Entertainment,  Off the Shelf

Off the Shelf…'Rocky Balboa'

When it first came out in theaters, I ventured out in the cold Christmas Day to see the 6th and final Rocky.  Well, it’s been a few years and piggybacking on my Off the Shelf write up of the first Rocky, I got the urge to watch the rest of the series (omitting part 5 because I refuse to acknowledge it’s existence, let alone purchase it) and finished up with this respectable film that really is better than I expected and I really liked it.

While this movie comes so close the emotional impact of the first Rocky movie (by a bit unfairly tugging at the heartstrings), I believe succeeds in creating an excellent bookend to the series (making up for part 5) by ending the saga on the same note as it started. The thing that impressed me most was the fact that this film was not about boxing. This movie was about character development and continuing development of character.  Something of a re-treaded message spelled out beautifully in the first film but although it seems a little weak here, it still makes me smile.  This movie’s most important message is about doing what you have to do for yourself and to never give up.

Sly, in a back-to-the-basics approach did a terrific job with the script.  Sure you could argue that anyone who is a Rocky fan could overlook the repetitive and over-played elements, but Stallone still found ways to make things fresh. I think Lucas should take few tips from Sly, especially after what he did with his, at the time, final Rambo movie.  It’s hard to be a fan and not say that he did everything right, but it did win me over.  Everything from not naming it Rocky VI (which would make it far less appealing and associate it with many other franchises that have gone for far too long) to throwing in very minimal characters, who ended up being strong supporting characters, to the ‘how could you not have put it in the film’ fan-service of a training montage, which included the eggs, the music and of course the famous Philly Art Museum steps.

Bringing back the entire cast was a bit like going back to the well but changing things up with Adrian’s death was kind of an unexpected plot device.  Sure, Mickey died, then Apollo was killed, and we wish Rocky 5 had died in pre-production, but Rocky’s emotional distress was actually more impressive to see acted out than to have him just jump into the ring and start fighting.  His fight wasn’t revenge driven and I liked that Rocky had this deeper level that was unexplored in any of the previous installments.  Also, I didn’t really know who Milo Ventimiglia was when I first saw this but I actually bought into him being Rocky’s son, and if you look closely (still don’t know how he did it) he talks with the same lowered right portion of his lip.

I can happily say that it wasn’t just a nostalgia trip that made me, and all the rest of you, like this movie. Other series’ sequels would have just rode out the steam of the previous installments without really contributing to the series itself.  This film has the ability to take what momentum was built from the series.  Doing so definitely gave me a feeling close to what I felt from the first movie.

It was a little unsettling to see Rocky in the shape he was since it is vastly different from what our image of him is as an icon. But that’s the beauty of the film. He’s been there, done that and he’s moved on. He’s not in ‘the shape of his life’ knocking down hoards of opponents…he’s put that life behind him and he’s pretty content with who he is and who he’s still trying to be.  He’s suffered some setbacks and shows that convincingly and he, like everyone I suppose, wants one more shot to prove to himself who he is what he’s still got left.  I like that his trainer says he’s got a fighter’s chance.  Very true, because as long as you keep punching, you’re gonna hit something.  Rocky’s not fighting for a title, he’s fighting to let him know he’s still there.  I like that message quite a lot.

As I stated before, this movie is not about boxing, but about life.  An amazing finish to the story that told us to root for the underdog…and ultimately to root for ourselves.  Little cheezy but so are Rocky’s jokes.

G-S-T Ruling – 3.5/5

G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED