' Cinema Romantico: Rocky Balboa

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rocky Balboa

(Important Note: I watched this movie because I was sick, both my Netflix discs were in transit and nothing else was on.)

The sixth entry in the never-ending series from the mind of Sylvester Stallone about Philly's most legendary pugilist is either an apology or the deseperation of a man who cannot let go. Or it might be both.

"Rocky Balboa" (2006), though, is not merely an apology for the grotesque 1990 "Rocky V" but an apology for every sequel that followed the low budget, raw but still fairytale-like Oscar-winning original from 1976. Consider: "Rocky Balboa", which was written and directed by Sly, opens with the same music as the original and features Rocky, pushing 60, climbing out of bed in the morning and feeding a few turtles. Rocky has essentially returned to the loan shark business in so much as he runs a restaurant where he lets Spider Rico (the guy he fought at the start of the original) eat for free. He and Paulie (Burt Young) return to the site where the ice rink he and Adrian, since deceased from cancer, had their memorable first date once stood and then Rocky returns to the rundown bar he used to frequent in the original and then Rocky encounters the young girl who yelled a few not-so-nice things at him in the orginal who is now all grown up and then Rocky performs a séance to communicate with Burgess Meredith's Mickey Goldmill to ask him if....okay, okay. That last one did not happen. But the rest?

This is a road trip through "Rocky" memories, a travelogue of everything that made the first one so wonderous and left the sequels sorely lacking. It's kinda neat, sure, but neat in the way that the only neat part of "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" was the part at the end when Jimmy Smits' Bail Organa was walking around in the white hallwayed spaceship and the audience realizes, Oh! Hey! That's Princess Leia's ship from the real first movie! It's cool only because it makes you wistfully pine to be watching the genuine product. Sylvester Stallone wants us to see all this and understand that he remembers what made the original tick and that's nice and good but seriously, Sly, couldn't you have just gone for a re-release instead?

But then Stallone could not have re-entered the ring to re-introduce us to his pecs and to show us he can still give as good as he gets and that "the world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward." Enter: Mason "The Line" Dixon (real life boxer Antonio Tarver), the heavyweight champion of the world who resembles the current heavyweight champion of the world in so much as....uh....who's the current heavyweight champion of the world?

A computer simulation has determined that if the Rocky Balboa of his prime had squared off with the Mason "The Line" Dixon of his prime that Rocky would have won. "The Line" thinks this is absurd, but it's not as absurd as the current Rocky Balboa, after the requisite passionate Courtroom Speech, re-attaining his boxing license with the intention of entering the ring in a few "local" fights although immediately "The Line's" peeps turn up to offer Rocky the chance at an "exhibition" against the champ.

Hey, everyone loves a good computer simulation but a computer simulation in 2007 had the Nebraska Football Team going 11-1 and playing for the national title. That team actually went 5-7 and lost to Kansas(!) 76-39. Oops!!!

One can assume how the final act of "Rocky Balboa" plays out but if we are playing the what if? game how about what if the final act had instead played out like the real life Muhammad Ali/Larry Holmes heavyweigh tilt of 1980 which showed the former, formerly "the greatest", desperately clinging to the past and getting pummeled all because he could not let go. Oh, would that have been bold. But then Stallone isn't Tony Bourdain. He's Colonel Sanders. It tastes the same today as it did in 1976.

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