Stallone has decided to resuurect the career of boxing’s answer to Hoffman’s Rainman. Forget the fact that Rocky Balboa is now older than Mick was in the original Rocky. The loveable pugilist with more comebacks to his credit than CHER has returned to make us believe in the impossible once again.
Whe we first met Balboa, he was a down on his luck kid from the streets of Philly with a dream. A fighter with a best friend reminiscent of Otis the town drunk and a girlfriend who made Marlee Matlin seem chatty, he carried the heart of a winner though all odds were against him.
Miraculously, he transformed himself into someone with the inner courage,desire and commitment to get the holy krap beaten out of him while all of America cheered.
Then, having lost the only meaningful fight of his life, he shook off the doldrums of being beaten worse than a narcoleptic in a cross-country marathon and wrangled his way into a re-match with the still heavyweight champion Apollo Creed.
Armed with his crusty manager, mute wife and brain-damaged best friend and now brother in law, he trained harder than ever before. Extra raw eggs in the morning. Longer jaunts across Philly. Interludes of incoherent ramblings about destiny that were clearly more abundant than what we had witnessed in Rocky 1. Balboa entered the ring in that second fight and achieved what most thought impossible: He defeated an opponent who, despite his earlier knockout of Rocky and current status as Heavyweight champ, looked like a gay tailor on steroids.
Next came fame and fortune… and a very large African American with a Mohawk. Manager Mick takes the worst of a Clubber Lange shove and passes on to the great sparring gym in the sky, leaving Rocky Balboa without a father figure. A father figure who from the sound of things ate broken glass and scratched his hind-quarters with a cheese grater, but a father figure nonetheless. “You’re getting soft”, Mick told him. Too many beers with his short bus brother in law. Too much lovin’ from a wife that made Shelley Duvall look excitable. Our hero was at a crossroads.
Rocky did the only thing a fighter could do: He began training with his dapper yet effeminate opposition from Rocky 1 and 2. Here was a match made in heaven. Two guys who could look in the mirror all day running along the beach together. Only Rocky had lost his spirit. In steps Adrian his wife. The dire nature of the situation forced his loving spouse to do something that Rocky 1 and 2 never called upon her for: She delivered dialogue. After the beachside pep talk from his better half, Rocky was ready to kick some pre- A-Team butt!
He won, of course. It wouldn’t have made sense for Rocky to lose two of the three fights. There are only so many raw eggs you can down. Besides, Rocky had finally met someone with a lesser proficiency regarding the King’s English than himself. That alone was enough to preserve the necessity of a Clubber Lang knockout.
After that came the tussle with the Russian guy who used to sleep with Bridgette Nielsen before Rocky and, God help us all, Flav A Flav. Of course Rocky beat the borscht out of the superhuman predecessor to Barry Bonds. The effeminate tailor was there, along with the rest of the cast ( minus Mick…RIP), but he didn’t need them. He was, after all, Rocky Balboa.
Rocky 5 lost me to be honest. The champ was bankrupt and training someone else. Yeah… I know. He wound up whipping the young boxer’s butt in the end. Balboa’s back-alley knockout did little to shield us from the fact that Philly’s favorite son had become a caricature of his once great self. Even casting a verbose character with one of Huggy Bear’s old suits and a Don King coiff as the fight promoter wasn’t enough to save the film.
So now, 16 years later, Rocky is coming out of retirement. Again. Good for him. The runs will be shorter of course. Bladder control issues. Don’t look for the victorious charge up the courthouse steps. Pauley will probably be off the sauce due to a liver condition. The champ even has a grown son. Still, he will climb in the ring with a fighter half his age. He’ll probably win, unless he wanders back to the corner between bells and forgets to go back out for the next round. The eye of the tiger sadly, is near-sighted now.
All I can say is God love Sylvester Stallone. He has the body of a forty year old and bills that need to be paid. He looks better at 60 than I did at 20. I hear Stallone’s next adventure will be Rambo IV. I think it’s called: First Blood ( In The Stool). I’m looking forward to that one. I’ll go see Rocky Balboa because I believe this will be the final installment. Let’s all pray that I am right. I really couldn’t bear to watch Rocky square off against Mort Knackleman in the nursing home cafeteria for the last bowl of rice pudding. Besides, I sat through Halloween 7 and I am still in therapy.