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Rocky Balboa

Josh Bell

The latest installment plays like writer/director/producer/star Sylvester Stallone simply headed to the set with his handy Rocky checklist, ticked off all the items and called it a day. Inspirational speeches about never giving up? Check. Drinking a glass full of raw eggs? Check. Using a slab of meat as a punching bag? Check. Running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the strains of Bill Conti's indelible theme song? Check. "Yo, Adrian"? Check. Great, roll credits.

There are indeed a number of montages, including the training sequence in which the aging Rocky prepares to fight cocky young boxer Mason "The Line" Dixon (Antonio Tarver), but that headline might have more accurately read "New Rocky Film Just Four or Five Inspirational Speeches," as any time any character has any doubt about anything, another character is there to give him a perfectly composed, cliché-filled pep talk as Conti's music slowly swells in the background.

Of course, the appeal of the Rocky series is its ability to inspire, but it's only worked when there was a real sense that either Rocky or his loved ones had something genuinely at stake, something to fight for. And Rocky Balboa has nothing of interest to say about dealing with age or remaining relevant in a youth-oriented culture. Rocky simply decides he wants to fight, trains and then fights. And any other possible tensions—Rocky's efforts to connect with his son (Milo Ventimiglia), or his bonding with the grown-up girl who once taunted him and her own rebellious teen son—are brushed aside in favor of the poorly shot and predictable boxing finale that merely checks the final item off of Stallone's fan-pandering list.

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