Rocky Balboa (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

From an auspicious start, the Rocky series steadily plummeted, sinking further with every effort, as reflected in the IMDb ratings for each film:

Rocky (1976) 7.8
Rocky II (1979) 6.3
Rocky III (1982) 5.8
Rocky IV (1985) 5.5
Rocky V (1990) 4.0

I'm not sure that the above snapshot gives a completely accurate picture of the trend. Maybe the road downward had a short uphill stretch in the middle. I seem to remember that Rocky IV wasn't such a bad picture. At any rate, the start and finish points are identified with reasonable accuracy, and the gap between them represents a truly monumental disparity. The 7.8 level represents all-time greatness, the territory of Oscar's Best Picture, which in fact Rocky was. On the downside, 4.0 is a B-movie. And not even a good B movie. To place it in perspective, Roddy Piper's Hell Comes to Frogtown is rated 4.6.

The point here is that Stallone has miraculously turned it around. Rocky VI (Rocky Balboa) is currently rated 8.0, and that's not an unreasonable score. It may eventually drop a bit, but it'll stay close to the first Rocky film and above the second one. It's a resonant guy-movie. When Stallone first announced this project I thought it was utter bullshit, especially when he leaked that Rocky would not be a manager or a trainer, but would be getting back in the ring with the current heavyweight champ. I figured it was just a shameless attempt to milk the franchise one more time.

I was wrong.

Whether you like the film or not, you will see that Stallone did not write this one from the checkbook. It came straight from the heart. It may seem saccharine or cloying to many people, but for better or worse Stallone's heart is being worn right up there on Rocky Balboa's massive sleeve. Watching it reminded me so much of the down-to-earth sincerity of the first film, the one that made the fictional boxer and his creator very famous men. Stallone basically took the feelings he and his generation have about getting old and projected those feelings into his uber-mensch, Rocky Balboa. The kind of heartfelt words spoken by Rocky would sound fulsome coming from just about any other character ever written, but this is dumb, kind-hearted, unguarded, guileless Rocky. He can get away with it.

I think I can best review the film by telling you what went through my mind as I watched it. When Rocky was reminiscing about his first dates with Adrian, I vaguely remembered those scenes, but what came pouring back to me was the day I went to see the first Rocky movie with my first wife. We had been living in Florida for many years, and Christmas of 1976 was our first trip back to our home town of Rochester, New York. It was the first time my parents would see their grandsons. My mom and dad were young then, younger than I am now, and they wanted the boys all to themselves. This was fine with me and Katie since, as parents of a two year old and a four year old, we probably hadn't had time to ourselves in years. On our first free afternoon in years, we saw Rocky, and loved it.

That was, for me, many lifetimes ago. I've been through so many relationships, lived and worked in so many different countries. Those two little boys are now in their thirties.

But after all those lifetimes, Rocky is still up there on the screen, still basically the same guy. When he was talking about the past, with the Rocky theme music playing lugubriously in the background, I wasn't really seeing those scenes from his past, but scenes from my own past which occurred on the very same day that I first saw the Adrian scenes which Rocky was recollecting. I have to say that the movie worked. It got me to dig deep inside myself, and in perfect parallel with the film! Rocky and I were old friends, remembering the same day together.

Then later, as Rocky was planning to get into the ring again, I was reminded of all the young guys who give me no respect on the sand courts. (I still play 2x2 volleyball.) Rocky got into the ring despite the fact that he is totally lacking in speed. I get out on the court even though I'm totally lacking a vertical. I'm 6'2" and have an 18" vertical. I play against guys four inches taller, with arms four inches longer, and with verticals exceeding 30 inches. Obviously I can't crowd the net like the young guys do. I have to find a different way to win, or at least to compete. Rocky is out there against a taller, faster man with longer arms. He's got the exact same problem I have. He has to find a different way to compete. You know what? Rocky is out there fighting for me. I can feel that, deep in my gut. More than ever, Rocky is my generation's surrogate.

So does the film work for me? You bet it does. Stallone took the regrets of my generation, as well as its remaining dreams, and poured them into a character we already knew, a lovable bum who is already part of our life's history, a fictional fighter who feels like an old friend. Damn, I wanted to comfort the guy when he was at the cemetery.

Yeah, it works. Now if you'll excuse me, I seem to have something in my eye.



  • Features not yet announced.



None. It is rated PG.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C+. I'm being conservative. I don't know if this film will have much appeal to women or younger people, but it's a great guy-flick for baby boomers. If it proves to be a box office smash, then I guess I would re-evaluate the score to a B.

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