Saturday, August 22, 2009

Must-Miss TV: A Rocky ride

It was on cable a few weeks ago, so I DVRed it. My son and I watched it yesterday.

I might be scarred for life and I want to save you from that fate.

Rocky Balboa, a 2006 release that was the sixth (and, God willing, last) in the series, was so cover-your-eyes stupid and schmaltzy that "bad" isn't a good enough adjective to describe it.

What statement was Sly Stallone making by naming it that instead of calling it Rocky VI? Maybe, like Balboa, he's too over-the-hill to count to six?

This film was all about Stallone desperately trying to prove his relevance. Sorry, Sly. Oh, and the toupee looked ridiculous, too.

There have been many great boxing movies. To name a few: Raging Bull ... When We Were Kings ... The Harder They Fall ... Million Dollar Baby ... and, yes, Rocky.

Rocky Balboa falls just a little short of great the same way Sly Stallone falls just a little short of Tom Hanks.

Amazingly, back in '06, many reviewers actually liked this thing. I know, because I did some Googling to check out what they wrote. For example, Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper called it "a fitting and triumphant final chapter." Then-Tribune critic Michael Wilmington wrote: "The movie itself, defying all odds, comes close to a knockout." Some dude named Mark Bell for some site called Film Threat, said: "The acting in the film is grade-A."

I'm wondering: Had these "experts" inadvertently reviewed the original Rocky? Or even Rocky III, with the glorious Mr. T stealing the show with his own unique brand of grade-A acting?

Thankfully, confirming that I'm not totally insane, plenty of rational critics agreed with me. Said the Boston Globe's Ty Burr: "It's so wrapped up in its maker's personal mythology and psychic needs that it becomes a hall of mirrors to which we're given a slack-jawed ringside seat." Said Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times: "This is a film for gluttons for punishment. Everyone else, please leave the building."

The premise of Rocky Balboa is idiotic enough: a 50-something has-been who hasn't stepped in the ring in years decides his life won't be complete unless he goes toe-to-toe with the undefeated, in-his-prime champion.

Boxing fans who prefer realism to fantasy chuckled at all of the Rocky movies - even the superior first edition. Specifically, why wouldn't the ref have stopped the fight the first half-dozen times Apollo knocked Rocky into la-la-land? OK, it's a fairy tale. We get it.

This time, though, you have an old man getting the crap beaten out of him in the opening minutes of a so-called "exhibition." The second time he was knocked down, Rocky actually needed to use the ropes to pull himself up at the count of nine.

And yet ... the ref let the fight go on. That's not a fairy tale, it's sanctioned abuse of the elderly.

Some might say it's so bad it's funny. No. It's simply so bad. One absurd/terrible/unwatchable scene after another. On a few occasions, the writing and acting were so awful, I had to fast-forward it just to get on with the story.

OK, so why am I going on and on about a three-year-old movie? What's next? My review of Klute?

Well, I'm doing this because I love boxing movies and I hate bad boxing movies. And because Rocky Balboa is out there in cable-land, just waiting to reel in the next sucker. And because you might see that it's on, see the three stars next to the title in the cable guide and say to yourself, "You know, I never saw this one. I think I'll check it out."


Spend those 102 minutes doing something productive ... like staring blankly into space.

You're welcome.


  1. I really enjoyed Rocky Balboa. To each his own!

  2. from a boxing perspective even rocky 1 was a joke...nobody throws that much blood around the ring and 1 lives and 2 the ref keeps the fight going..i think a very young quentin tarantino (what was he 2 at the time) was an "adviser" to the original and I think stallone made the movie(s) because he was having a thing with carl weathers...that should get you some google hits..hahaha