by Adam Riske
As Heath and I gear up for Creed (coming out in November), we begin our first in a series of discussions about our beloved Rocky franchise.
Adam: How you would rank the series in order from favorite to least favorite?
Heath: Oh, man. That's a tough question, because I think they're all pretty great, even the ones that get crapped on. I guess if I HAD to answer that question because you had a gun to my head -- which is way out of line, so please put it away -- is 1, 3, 4, 6, 2, 5. But the great thing about these movies is that every time I watch them (which is often), I tend to find new things to appreciate about them that I didn't connect with previously. Like part 5: the relationship with his son in that movie really impacted me on my most recent watch. What about you? You have to answer because NOW I HAVE THE GUN. HA HA!
Adam: It's a Nintendo gun...and you just pistol whipped me with it. OW! Not very sly. See what I did there?
I think some of them are great and some are "great" but in a pure cheese way. My ranking would be 1, 2, 6, 3, 5, 4. I totally agree with you about the father-son relationship in Rocky V. That is the best part of the movie besides when Rocky goes "Aye, yo Tommy Gunn. You knock him down. Why don't you try knockin' me down." GO FOR IT! Ugh, I love Rocky V so much. "He took my room!" Rocky V is the one I will defend and stand by as the most underrated of the series. I think having Rocky be down and out and back in the old neighborhood was a fresh take for the series at that point and part V doesn't get enough credit for how great of a parody it is of Don King and the boxing scene of the late '80s and early '90s.
Heath: Okay, so I was all about to explain what makes Rocky IV so watchable and then you ended your question by pointing out the montages, Dolph, etc., and totally take all my talking points away. I think a lot of people probably like Rocky IV ironically these days, but I have a real, genuine love for all that '80s stuff. I think that's what it all boils down to for me: it's the most blatantly excessive entry in the series. You're right that technically it's not a good movie; Dolph Lundgren is a cartoon version of a Russian and the whole "America-vs-Communism" thing is way too on the nose. But I think it's the silliest, tackiest, most in-the-moment of all the Rocky movies, which makes me love it. It's a quintessential '80s movie, and I really love '80s movies. They're so basic: good guy, bad guy, music video soundtrack, triumphant climax, freeze frame!
Plus, Stallone is so passionate in part IV. When he ends the movie by giving a speech about change to an arena full of Russians and gets a standing ovation from lookalike Gorbachev, I really believe Stallone thought that he was making a difference. There's this earnestness, which is sometimes misguided, that permeates all the Rocky movies, and I really NEED to think that it's the essence of Stallone seeping into the things he's writing and directing. I want to believe that he's so blindly optimistic that he thinks he can change the world with a boxing movie. That's one of the reasons I love the dude so much. He's like a family member at this point.
Adam: I'm so glad you brought up Stallone's earnestness, because that's my favorite thing about him as an actor and a filmmaker as well. The moment in the series that brings the house down for me is his speech to his son about "getting back up again" from Rocky Balboa. It gives me the chills; it's so nakedly emotional that it blurs the lines between character and performer. What do you think of Rocky Balboa overall? I don't think the boxing stuff works, but everything around it about Rocky and his son is some of the best stuff in the series.
Heath: I really like Rocky Balboa. I've never questioned the boxing match in Rocky Balboa. Rocky is so stubborn and determined that he will never give up, and Mason "The Line" Dixon is a paper champ who was fed easy opponents. We saw that happen to Rocky in...what, part III? Also, the speech you mentioned about getting back up again is awesome. Life sucks, it's not fair, and you lose more as time goes on. Okay, so now what? What are you going to do about it? The choice is yours. Fantastic.
Adam: Better son: Sage Stallone or Milo Ventimiglia?
Heath: I like Milo Ventimiglia more than I liked Sage in the role, but I feel bad comparing. First, Sage wasn't an actor when he starred as Rocky's son for Rocky V, so he's a little stiff in screen. But then again, you can tell Sly is just nuts about the kid because he's always hugging and kissing on him, which makes the relationship more believable. Milo was able to convey the duality of having pride in his dad but also growing up in his shadow and resenting that. Ultimately I think casting him was a wise decision for the movie. I'm going with Milo.
Heath: What's your opinion of Paulie as a character? I know he played a necessary part in the first movie as Adrian's brother, but how do you feel about the character as he exists in all six movies? I've really struggled with his involvement in these stories.
Adam: I want to jump out of my skin every time I see him. He's a dirty crumbum. I don't think he adds much except as a counterpoint to Rocky and Adrian. I think that's his function. He represents "the neighborhood" and Rocky and Adrian are the beacons of light who have good hearts and rise above being defeated by their socioeconomic situation (at least in the first movie). He's what I fear I will grow up to be if I don't get married and just watch movies all the time.
Heath: You don't need to worry about that ever being you. You're really fun to be around and you're generous. Remember you split your taco with me at F This Movie Fest 2015? I don't even think we should explain that. We should just leave it there and let people wonder. I'm just saying, you're no Paulie.
Adam: What do you think about the Paulie sex robot in Rocky IV?
Heath: '80s Robot says HAPPY BIRTHDAY PAULIE.
Adam: Paulie totally f**ked that robot. Read between the lines, Heath.
Heath: So do we think that Paulie put a Fleshlight in the robot? Because now I'm uncomfortable with all the time Rocky's son was spending with it in that movie. "You've got such a deep bellybutton! I can fit a whole candy bar in it!"
Adam: I think Paulie isn't smart enough for a Fleshlight. He probably just came on it. This is getting gross. But let's push this joke even farther. #Paul-E.
Adam: Paulie would probably say "I hope you corrode" and start crying and violently knocking things off of shelves.