Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. We may be seeing more of this guy around, so let’s see how he does with a review of Stallone’s return to his signature character. Is it a welcome return, though?
Hey all, here's my first AICN review. Pretty much spoiler-free. First off, Rocky Balboa is one of my heroes. Not because he's the underdog who always comes back to win. Not because he lived the American dream. Not because when we were younger, my friend seriously believed that ROCKY IV brought down communist Russia. Not even because when I see a Rocky movie I devote the following week to getting off my ass and running through the city in a sweatshirt and winter hat. Rocky is one of my heroes because he has to be the most well-meaning, unpretentious, and charismatic characters ever put on film. Who doesn't like Rocky? Name one person who doesn't. I dare you. Actuaries? Terrorists? The horribly unrealistic parents of Tom Jeter on Studio 60? Hardcore Boston Irish Catholic people who dislike all Italians no matter what? No. Everyone likes Rocky. He went the distance against Apollo, exacted revenge on Clubber Lang, and took down an 8' tall Russian steroid freak. Sure all these accomplishments prove he is awesomeness incarnate, but what separates Rocky from the stereotypical sports hero is that he's always been wonderful human being. The kind of genuinely non-judgmental person who make us wish we could leap on the screen and run along side him. The final film in the series, ROCKY BALBOA keeps that very characterization it's core, and it's that reason the film succeeds. We can all collectively agree to forget ROCKY V ever happened, right? Good. Cause so does this movie. No Sage Stallone. No lame street fights. No Tommy Gunn. More importantly, there's no saddening attempt to modernize Rocky himself. This film makes the rather smart decision of keeping Rocky the same kind of person he was when he started, even though the world around him has changed a great deal. And that's what makes it so compelling. ROCKY BALBOA is a character piece. There I said it. It's a meditation (I use the word loosely) of Rocky in his later years, dealing with the loss of his wife and a distant relationship with his son. He actually lives like most retired boxers do: a simple low-income life in a crummy neighborhood. What's great though, is how he interacts with the community around him. He's a recognizable and beloved figure. He works most nights in his little neighborhood Italian restaurant telling patrons his old fight stories. He takes time out to help his out his old friends and takes a believable interest in troubled kids. In fact, he spends most of the film bringing that "old school" endearing quality to world around him. What's more is the movie ends up being good despite a long list of flaws. There's a litany of weird editing choices: the opening sequence is a little awkward, the film has too many cheesy fades, and even the big fight ends up a little too stylized. Everyone will predictably groan during the bad pop song montage and cringe when some of the actors unleash their bad accents. Even the training montage comes off a little short (you can't tell me it wouldn't take months to get Sly in the kind of ridiculously impressive shape he's in at the end. The dude's 60 years old. It's kind of scary). But it at least the training scene ACTUALLY explains how a guy as old as Rocky can train and have some kind of effectiveness in the ring. I honestly wasn't expecting that. But none of the little complaints really matter, cause the film still works. Remember the weird ass robot from ROCKY III? Remember Hulk Hogan showing up with the little fuzzy ball cape? Yeah it didn't matter cause the movie still worked. And so does this one. The tone strikes an interesting parallel with the first (and my personal favorite) Rocky film because it gets back to what I call "Rocky simply being Rocky." We love to watch him. We love his slurred speech and simpleton way of looking at life. Stallone seems to slip back into that character so easily and it's just the way we remember him. I even disregarded the whole weird plastic surgery thing (justifying in my mind Rocky would need some after having his face bashed in some many times… Please, just roll with it). Some how, even the plot line with Rocky Jr. is a convincing story of what it would be like to be trying to live a regular life when your dad is a beloved sports figure (though the actor who plays Rocky Junior is instantly recognizable now because he's Rogue, I mean Peter from "Heroes"). ROCKY BALBOA brought me back to the old days where I'd stay home sick from school and repeatedly watch my badly-taped VHS copies from badly-edited TNT airings. (I still break them out every once and awhile, 80's commercials are funny). It brought me back cause the film has that old school 70's and 80's vibe in it's approach to telling the story. Can you believe that Hollywood forgot how to make these kind of mainstream character-based films? I imagine it happened somewhere in the mid-nineties when everything had to be an "event-picture" and the first thing thought of was the :30 second commercial. With Rocky movies integrity and nostalgia ALWAYS mean something (reminder: we have already agreed ROCKY V never happened). So, to all the Rocky fans: you should rest your fears, suspend your inner-critic, and just see the film this December. Cause it's worth it. It's like hanging out with old friend you haven't seen in awhile. Enjoy, J Skell PS. I <3 Borat. Loved him for about four years. But is it me or has the Borat-mania already become annoying? I've seen far too many bad Borat impersonations lately.