'Rocky Balboa'

rocky_balboaThe full trailer of Rocky Balboa has risen from the mat, unable or unwilling to stay down. In it, Rocky is [SPOILER ALERT] old. And, inexplicably, fighting a young heavyweight champion. Why? How? Whazza? Computers. (Of course.) Seems some SportsCenter-ish show has used a virtual match to pit the current champ, Mason Dixon, against the Italian Stallion in his prime. The e-fight stirs up interest in a real-world bout, necessitating the mother of all training montages. I mean… dude is 60. But he’s still got the quips down. “It ain’t over till it’s over,” he Yogi Berras in the face of his opponent. “What’s that, from the ’80s?” deadpans Dixon. “More like the ’70s,” says Rocky/Stallone. Zing! Only in Stalloneworld is “the ’70s” shorthand for indomitable American optimism.

That the Rocky sequels became steadily more ludicrous is hardly news. That this one might be the most ludicrous of all is hardly news. That Talia Shire’s Adrian appears only as “archive footage” is intriguing. Did they kill her off, as rumored? And if so… why does Rock fight? For his son? To buy Burt Young a new kidney? As a favor to Drago, from whom he now imports the majority of his oil?

Funny thing is, the ludicrousness has sort of turned itself inside out here. The Rocky saga, originally a stirring if simplistic parable about the stolid little guy, unwittingly metastasized into a cautionary tale of American bloat and self-indulgence. Might the outcome of R6 tally up the wages of that bloat and end with Rocky confronting his limitations? Doubtful: Stallone will never allow his hero to fall, even in the face of overwhelming, um, reality. Whatever happens, it had better be over the top. I’m counting on it.

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