DVD Release Date:  March 20, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  December 20, 2006
Rating:  PG (for boxing violence and some language)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  108 min.
Director:  Sylvester Stallone
Actors:  Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Antonia Tarver, Geraldine Hughes, Milo Ventimiglia

Yo, Adrian!  Rocky’s back – although sweet Adrian is gone.  And, although you’re probably bracing yourself for another bad sequel, as I was, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at this final episode in this series.

After years in the boxing ring, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has settled down to the simple life.  Having lost all his wealth, he’s back in South Philly, living in a modest home, the owner of a Italian restaurant called “Adrian’s.”  Unfortunately, the restaurant’s namesake passed away three years ago, leaving Rocky bereft.  And their only child, Rocky, Jr. (Milo Ventimiglia), a Wall Street-type yuppie, won’t have much to do with dear old dad. 

As a result, Rocky’s life is rather sad.  His only fun is hanging out with Paulie (Burt Young), visiting Adrian’s grave and reminiscing about the good old days – which he does far too much of, in Paulie’s mind.  So when ESPN stages a computer-generated fight between Balboa, as he used to be, and the current heavyweight champ, Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver) – with Balboa knocking out Dixon, for the win – Rocky starts thinking.  He wants to be back in the ring again.  Not anything big, of course.  Just a few local fights.  Because he’s still got “some stuff in the basement,” ‘ya know?

Rocky applies for a boxing license and is promptly rejected.  After poignantly arguing his case, however, the committee grants the 50-something boxer his license – against their better judgment.  The decision makes headlines, and soon Dixon’s handlers have come a’callin’.  Why not fight Dixon, they say, in an exhibition match in Vegas?  Nobody will get hurt, they’ll all make a ton of money and Dixon will finally gain some long-needed popularity – as well as a worthy opponent, which has been the bane of his career.

Never one to turn down a fight, Rocky accepts and begins to train.  Cue the Rocky music, ‘cause it’s 1976 all over again.

Like most people, I went into this film with a lot of skepticism.  Naturally, I loved the original “Rocky,” which took home the 1976 Oscar for Best Film, with good reason.  And, like most kids who came of age in the '70s and '80s, I also saw all the action-packed, formulaic sequels – except for “Rocky V.”  I do know that Rocky suffered irreversible brain damage in that film, however, which is only minimally alluded to here, with slowness of speech and drooping features that appear to look more like a stroke.  So, watching this film, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had missed something.

Nevertheless, despite a very slow beginning and a somewhat sluggish pace throughout, I found myself enjoying this sequel to end all “Rocky” sequels (or so insists Stallone).  It’s much more like the original, with realistic characters and a nuanced plotline.  Of course, we’ve still got the skepticism, the training sequences (mercifully shortened), the Rocky music and the “go get ‘em” speeches.  But here, there’s no evil opponent.  Although Tarver’s surly character isn’t particularly appealing, and the real-life boxer can’t act at all, he’s not a straw man – and he sure looks great in the ring.  Much like Stallone, who at 60, is more fit than one could possibly imagine.