Sunday, December 24, 2006

Film Review: "Rocky Balboa"

All right, condemn me. Call me an aging pushover for nice; a baby-boomer-chauvinist. Addicted to 'uplift'; a sucker for (stories about) losers, characters who pay the price, turn it around and finally win.

I admit it; willingly.

I smile at babies.
I watch sunsets.
I sing the 'Star Spangled Banner' loudly and proudly at ballgames.
I believe in Apple pie, Motherhood and the USA.
I liked "Rocky Balboa".

Sylvester Stallone (writer, director, star) pushed all the right buttons.

Father and Son estranged, but coming back together again.
A faithful employee dumped by an uncaring boss; but finding redemption in an old relationship.
A widower who can't get over the loss of a wife--and fights (literally) to free himself of the rage engendered by (her) death's injustice.
New love.

Not since the original "Rocky" has Rocky been so victorious (forget the other sequels)...

"Rocky Balboa" uses its old formulas...including the time proven one of self-disparagement and laughing at oneself--nobody onscreen does that better than Rocky (he knows he's a little foolish; and laughs with you at himself)...but this one works wonderfully well.

Story of film: an aged (60+) ex-champion, who has recently lost his wife; contacted by the present champion who needs a "popular" fight to garner respect; the fighters prepare, character stories intertwine; the old and new champions fight; the blood flows; the ex-champion proves that 'old' ain't 'dead', the ghost of the wife is silenced or at least quieted from rage to acceptance; the champ earns popularity, and all live happily (or at least, 'feel-good' for a while) ever after.

If you're a committed cynic, too worldly for hope--who refuses to put sweetener in their coffee because they like it bitter--who refuse to expose their depression to 'nice' and uplift--who refuse to replace their delusions of negativity with delusions of possibility--forget "Rocky Balboa".

But if you'd like a little common-person-overcomes-adversity in your life, see Stallone's film.

Stallone has not survived all these years as a pop-cultural icon (Rocky and Rambo) for no reason. He's created two of the film culture's (like it or not) most memorable (READ: $$$-making) characters; yet, in spite of that, yet has been the target for cynics and cine-aesthetes for thirty years. He's had his work humiliated, criticised, laughed at, disparaged (...and some of the time justifiably)--but with this film he has done it (succeeded admirably) again, climbed to the top of the pop icon mountain. In "Rocky Balboa" he's touched the simple but true heart of America...or, at least, my American heart. I smiled and was happy all the way through watching it. Since when is 'warm feelings' a bad reason for moviegoing.


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