‘TIS THE SEASON TO WATCH “ROCKY” …PART II

Rocky II doesn’t tend to get a whole lot of love from casual Rocky fans. Most of the attention goes to the original (which is a classic) and parts III and IV (which are flashy and entertaining). Not helping its case is the fact that it’s mostly an extension/rehash of the original; Rocky retires after taking a beating from Apollo, marries Adrian, then tries to settle into a legitimate lifestyle after spending all of the money he earned from the fight. Meanwhile, Apollo’s ego is bruised when the press question whether he really earned that victory over Rocky, and bullies the “Italian Stallion” into a rematch. Much of Rocky II is mundane – literally the first hour and change is devoted to showing Rocky foolishly spend away his money, and trying but failing to capitalize on his temporary fame by doing product endorsements. Because he doesn’t want to go back to being a strong-arm for local loan shark Gazzo (he gives brother-in-law Paulie the gig instead), Rocky takes a job at the same meat plant where Paulie used to work, and eventually ends up working as sort of a janitor at Mickey’s gym.

Rocky is completely whipped in this flick. He initially starts training with Mickey again, but because he knows Adrian doesn’t approve and wants him to stay retired, he can’t get his shit together in order to train properly. The most insufferable part of the movie happens when Adrian lapses into a coma due to complications after giving birth to their son. Just when things should be picking up and we’re primed to see Rocky take on Apollo again, the movie detours into straight-up soap opera territory for 20 minutes. Eventually Adrian comes to and tells Rocky to “win,” we’re finally off to montage and fight territory, and all is right with the world again. And in case you’re insanely nearsighted, Rocky wins this time.

Rocky II is perhaps the most low-key of the sequels, and it’s easy to see why it’s sometimes overlooked. I definitely saw the original and parts III and IV multiple times before getting around to watching this one. It doesn’t advance the character as much as some of the other sequels would, mainly because it picks up right after the first one left off, and sees him fighting the same opponent again. And yet, that’s probably a good thing too, since this is the last time we see Rocky before he becomes a celebrity boxing superstar in Rocky III. Overall, I like it. I think it makes for a nice companion piece to the original, even if it doesn’t hold its own terribly well.

Least favorite part: Gotta be the whole coma thing, as mentioned above. It stops the movie in its tracks just when it should be gaining speed, and it’s too melodramatic for its own good. Without it, the movie would probably be a good 10-15 minutes shorter, which feels about right.

Favorite (non-montage or fight) part: It’s probably the scenes where Rocky is sweeping the floors and carrying other fighters’ spit buckets at Mickey’s gym. Sure it’s degrading (especially since the other fighters mock him) but it speaks volumes about Rocky’s character – like he tells Mickey, he just wants to be around it, even if he can’t fight anymore.

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