Rocky II (1979)

27 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Here is a sequel that works—one that delivers the goods and doesn’t deliver just the same material that you’ve seen in the original. This is the sequel to the Oscar-winning film “Rocky,” which starred (and was written by) Sylvester Stallone in a knockout performance as the boxer Rocky Balboa who also has a life aside from fighting. In that movie, what made the movie really special was that great leading performance, as well as the supporting performances of truly original characters. Now, here’s “Rocky II”—the characters are back and just as fresh as they were before. “Rocky II” probably isn’t as great as the original film (I gave that four stars), but it’s still an effective movie.

Sylvester Stallone directs and writes this sequel, and reprises his leading role again. Rocky Balboa is a true original—his personality and his actions are unlike any other movie character that came before. He talks street-smart and ends a lot of his sentences with “ya know,” and he’s really a nice guy. He also has a sense of humor in the way that sometimes, he doesn’t know he’s funny. And when he fights in the boxing ring, it’s just something he feels like doing for a hobby. He’s not a bad guy at all. Stallone lives and breathes this character and makes him just as lovable as he was in the original “Rocky.”

“Rocky II” picks up where the original film left off. If you recall, in the original film, Rocky Balboa (“The Italian Stallion”) had the chance to fight the heavyweight-boxing champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). If you don’t recall, the last scene of the original film is played as the opening scene of this film. Rocky doesn’t win the fight—in fact, he barely survives it. His intensity, and willingness to keep going, had people cheering for him. Those qualities also got his girlfriend Adrian (Talia Shire) to say, “I love you.”

In “Rocky II,” Apollo is very disappointed in everyone’s praises for Rocky that he demands a rematch. But Rocky is more interested in raising a family. He and Adrian wind up married and Adrian winds up pregnant. Rocky isn’t regretful of any of this—he is excited about it. He wonders what the kid will be like, if it’s a boy or a girl.

Rocky also has to get a job to support Adrian and his child, not born yet. Being the “Italian Stallion” who refused to go down in the fight with Apollo, Rocky has an opportunity to star in many commercials and get paid big bucks. Unfortunately, he has a bit of trouble reading. There is a great comic scene in which he reads off the cue cards in deadpan—he’s not messing with the director; he’s just sincerely screwing up.

But Apollo, being the pompous man that he is, demands a rematch. He goes out of his way to humiliate Rocky to the point where Rocky has to accept. This leads to more training with Mickey (Burgess Meredith), the gym owner who trained Rocky in the original film. This also leads to more support from Adrian and her mildly-annoying (but mostly funny) brother Paulie (Burt Young), who is still loyal but somewhat bitter; however, there is a scene in which he is more resentful, but I will not give away why.

The characters are given room to grow and they make up for the probability that the film is not particularly well-shot. Though to Stallone’s credit, he’s trying. There are some great lines of dialogue (some written by Stallone, the others improvised by him) and moments of humor and touching sadness. They, along with the characters (especially Rocky), make “Rocky II” a worthy sequel.

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