Before you continue, please read my last column (“My Star Wars”). You actually don’t have to, but it helps. Kind of like watching First Blood before Rambo. Unnecessary, but you should.

I went to see the very first show available for Rocky Balboa here in Charlotte. I actually got my tickets on Tuesday, the day before it was shown. I did so because I was in the area and wanted to get it out of the way, just in case I was late the next day thanks to mall shopper traffic. But I was also hoping that I would be avoiding a rush on opening day.

When the ticket girl told me the cost was $5.50, I gladly paid because a matinee in New York costs $15 plus a realtor fee. I kidded the girl that she was totally low-balling these tickets. I would gladly pay $25 to see this movie. She told me it wasn’t necessary and suggested I keep that extra $19.50 to buy a 3-ounce bag of Juju Bees.

I showed up at 11:30 AM on Wednesday (12:10 showtime), expecting to circle the lot for a parking space, expecting to showoff my advance ticket as I bypassed a long line of eager fans, expecting to scour a packed theatre for a good seat. Instead, I parked next to the handicapped space, almost tripped over a boy imitating Happy Feet penguins, and entered a theatre more vacant than a WNBA arena. There were roughly 30 of us there…no doubt all of whom were enthusiasts like myself. One guy even wore the Balboa style fedora. He looked rather disappointed that he was the only one donning such a hat. Maybe he thought opening day for this movie would be like walking into some sort of elk’s lodge where all the members wear honorary antler caps, only in this case it would be a room full of fedoras and fingerless gloves. Maybe a slab of hanging meat in the corner to beat on.

So the movie…I have to say that it’s pretty difficult to write too much about it without ruining it. I know some of you are out there saying, “For crying out loud, Keith. I don’t plan on seeing the movie, so go ahead and tell me about it.” I’ve never understood that logic. If somebody doesn’t plan on seeing a movie, why do they care enough about it to hear how it ends? It’s like telling a girl, “I don’t want to date you, but can you please tell me whether or not you would have put out?”

I really liked this film and think it’s every American’s rightful duty to go see it. It brings closure to a silver screen legend, and it does so by tying in much of Rocky’s past. Adrian has passed away, and there’s a lot of built up baggage in the Stallion’s gut. The fact that his son gets embarrassed by him only adds to it. There’s a piece of Rocky that in essence can’t let go of what once was. When ESPN shows America a simulated boxing match pitting him against current champ Mason “The Line” Dixon, it opens up a chance for him to put things to rest in a way that only an old war horse can. He accepts the opportunity, and it, as they say, is on.

The film won’t be for everyone, but Stallone’s character is never more lovable than in this installment. And his brief soliloquy to his son about how life is about moving forward regardless of how hard you get hit is a message that should resonate with everyone, especially in this age of blame and bullshit sense of entitlement. It’s not just a movie about second chances or shamelessly riding off into the sunset after one last dance. It’s about putting old ghosts to rest and living for the future, not the past (his son, not his deceased wife or his glorious career). Come to think of it, one of the expert advisors on the set may have been Mark McGwire.

Rocky Balboa isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it’s worth seeing. It serves as a great message that neither age nor mockery should deter any of us from doing whatever the hell we want to do. Whether you want to open a business or run a marathon, give it a shot. For best results, do it with Bill Conti’s Rocky score in your head.

For the sake of being balanced, here are some criticisms:

  1. Mason “The Line” Dixon is a character that could have had a better name. It’s nothing more than a geography/history word scramble. And he’s from Tampa, Florida! Nowhere near Maryland. Why not name a fighter Tears “Of The” Trail from Brunswick, Maine?
  2. 2. Mike Tyson makes a cameo. Is he hurting for cash that much, or did Stallone want to make the fighting environment look legitimate? If it was the latter, they must have cut out the scene that showed Don King raping his clients.

There’s my recap, folks. And if you care, my new ranking is as follows:

Rocky II
Rocky Balboa
Rocky IV
Rocky III
Rocky V

Let me know what you think after you see it. If you don’t see it, I understand. But if I find out you opted to see Russell Crowe’s A Good Year or Matthew Broderick’s Deck the Halls instead of Rocky, I’ll beat you with my brand new fedora.

Categories: Columns