In Praise Of Rocky Balboa

Some call the Rocky movies cheesy, predictable, formulaic. And, sure, they are.

When I tweet about them I always say that whichever one I’m watching is “The worst Rocky movie – except all the others.” And, sure, it is.

But the truth is the movies are great. The story is fun, the soundtrack is magnificent, the action is thrilling. They’re about overcoming the odds, never giving up, fighting for what’s important. The metaphor is clunky, but whether it’s fighting for recognition, love, respect, pride, friendship or to prove something to yourself, that’s what the movie is about. Not a dubiously refereed boxing match.

And for all the reliability of the formula, Stallone writes a great script: nuance, subplots, pathos and inspiring speech. When the unknown writer was hawking the script in the early 70s, it was turned down by several studios because [spoiler alert] Rocky didn’t win the fight. Those studios didn’t get it: it wasn’t about the fight, it was about taking your chance, doing your best. And it was a love story. Yo, Adrian.

People don’t watch the films because they think they’re about boxing. The people who do are missing out.

Not many film series can run for 6 films over 30 years, keep to their roots and get better each time. Look at Elm Street: same formula, increasingly rubbish. Look at Zombie flicks: successful ones have to reinvent.

And from an 8 year old movie, we’re beginning to recognise Rocky’s speech to his son as one of film’s great inspirational speeches. It’s about time we started recognising the rest of the movies as greats too.

The Forgotten Song: The Next Time

Unless you’ve lived in a cave your whole life, there are some movies that you can’t help but have seen at least once:

  1. The Wizard Of Oz, where a girl arrives in a strange land, she kills the first person she meets, then teams up with a group of misfits to kill again.
  2. The Sound Of Music, where a failed nun reneges on her promises and seduces a local widower.
  3. And Summer Holiday, where a Rock And Roll star gets increasingly easy listening as he travels south.

Summer Holiday was on itv3 yesterday, and being a fading Rock and Roller myself, I naturally watched. There are famous songs in this movie: Summer Holiday (obviously), Bachelor Boy, and others. I don’t watch it often, and there’s a song in it that I always forget. It’s not just me, either: it’s never mentioned when other people talk about the movie. But it’s not all bad…

It’s called The Next Time. Enjoy.