Screen Jeers: ‘Rocky IV’

Caryn: A few weeks ago, we talked about “The Longest Yard,” a silly sports movie about a prison football team. The movie contained Adam Sandler’s sense of humor, with jokes that wouldn’t be funny to anyone older than 5.

This week we watched “Rocky IV,” and while it wasn’t the same sort of immature silliness as a Sandler film, it was funny in a different way. “Rocky IV” is about a boxer named Rocky whose friend Apollo challenges a Russian boxer, Ivan Drago, to a fight. Apollo is really confident that he can beat Drago, but, spoiler, he’s been taking a break from boxing for too long and loses. Actually, he loses his life. It’s kind of a bummer.

Anyway, Rocky then challenges Drago as a way to avenge his friend. After Apollo dies, Ivan and his friends aren’t getting good press, so they head back to Russia and Rocky follows them later. After a couple montages of Rocky remembering the good times of he and Apollo sharing awkward man hugs on the beach, Rocky fights Drago and wins.

The movie is supposed to be epic and inspiring. But there were a few parts that I thought I should have been taking seriously, and I just ended up laughing. Dan, did you have any of those moments?

Dan: You just described the “Rocky IV” experience. The first three “Rocky” films were sports movie classics because of their gritty realism. It’s an ultimate rags-to-riches story, following Rocky’s journey to becoming a champion to himself (the first movie), a champion to the world (“Rocky 2”) and finally a champion of all time (“Rocky 3”). He loses and regains everything from movie to movie, but his journey is so inspiring and genuine every time that you can’t help but cheer the underdog on.

Where “Rocky IV” went gloriously wrong was in completely removing all semblance of reality from the formula. One of the first things we see in the movie is Rocky getting his wife’s father a robot servant for his birthday. Right there, we’ve left the universe where this simplistic, down-to-earth boxer picked himself up off the mats and entered a fantasy land. The crazy numbers and figures attributed to the sinister Drago only strengthen the notion that this is can no longer be a real-life story. Now, Rocky is basically Superman, and that shows when he takes approximately 9,000 direct-contact punches to the head over 12 rounds and actually wears out the indomitable Drago.

That said, it’s a wonderfully hot mess of a movie that has to be seen to be believed. What was your favorite moment of ridiculousness? And what was your least favorite part of the movie?

Caryn: I’ve never seen ANY of the Rocky movies before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was about some guy boxing, and I knew a statue of Rocky stands at the Philadelphia Art Museum and tons of people get their picture taken at the top of all those steps. It really kind of has a cult following, doesn’t it?

My favorite ridiculous moment was at the very end when Rocky has gained the favor of the Russian audience. His speech is really over the top, and as some critics say, Rocky might have single-handedly ended the Cold War with it. It seems like any sports movie hero can get an audience behind him by spouting “inspirational” moral platitudes. While I wasn’t inspired, I was certainly entertained.

As hard as I am on Rocky and his doltish ways, I have to be even harder on Adrian, his wife. It seemed like she believed in him for half of the movie, and then told him he had no chance of winning during the other half. She resented him going to Russia, but in the end she traveled to Russia herself. She was so hot and cold with her own husband and his chosen profession, it was really hard to like her. While someone close to the main character needed to be a voice of reason, it should have been Rocky’s trainer or father-in-law. Not his own wife. I found her truly tiresome.

And as a disillusioned American citizen, I really enjoyed Ludmilla’s speech when she says “You have this belief that this country is so very good and we are so very bad. You have this belief that you are so fair and we are so very cruel.” The Americans in the movie really come off as bullies. I’m all for not being a jerk when another country takes an interest in having a friendly boxing tournament with you even though, in the end, Drago wasn’t coming by his inhuman strength using natural methods.

Overall, this movie was laughable, but tolerable. I wasn’t bored or disappointed by it. In fact, I kind of want to put on a matching sweatsuit and go jogging through Philadelphia with “Eye of the Tiger” playing on my iPod. Dan, where did Rocky IV fall short for you? And what should we be watching instead?

Dan: “Rocky IV” never falls short. It is pure, unadulterated ridiculousness from beginning to end. It’s only fitting that we watched this movie right after “Gymkata,” another hilariously dumb sports movie. While “Gymkata” was poor all around, “Rocky IV” was at least decently shot. The gratuitous use of freeze frames into dissolves was rather unfortunate, but other than that, it’s pretty well put together.

If you’re looking for true inspiration, go to the first three “Rocky” films. Just make sure to avoid “Rocky V.” Not even a run up a snow-covered mountain is enough distance to put between yourself and that stinker of a movie.

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