Yo! 'Nough, already! The fifth - and hopefully the last - episode in the life and career of Rocky Balboa finds the title character completely reduced to a caricature.
No. 5 opens with a repeat of the final bout in No. 4, the one with Dolph Lundgren as a Russian champ pummeling a red-white-and-blue Rocky.There's never been any doubt about who would win in the Rocky sagas. But this time, a gimmick had to be found to get the plot moving. The one writer-star Sylvester Stallone came up with is - hold onto your hats - brain damage.
That guarantees immediate sympathy from Rocky's fans and conveniently takes him out of the ring, apparently for good. How, you may wonder, are they going to follow the tried-and-true formula, the one that set the whole Rocky craze in motion back in '76 and has lasted to the present?
Well, to begin with the ending, the climactic fight between the retired champ and a new contender takes place in a Phildelphia alley. But - not to worry - it's still a winnah!
The contrived plot fills the time between the triumphant fight in Moscow and the Philly brawl with an incredible tale of Rocky's fall. It results from bad management, something to do with brother-in-law Paulie (Bert Young) conniving with an unscrupulous accountant. Before you can bellow ``Go for it!,' the Balboa family is broke and back on their old turf in South Philadelphia.
After about 15 minutes of screen time, Rocky digs out his old black leather coat and the upturned fedora he sported in the original film, which won three Oscars, including best picture. Adrian (Talia Shire) joins him in his nostalgic mood by putting on the glasses she used to wear as a mousy clerk in the neighborhood pet shop where they first met. (Apparently that first kiss from Rocky miraculously cured her myopia.)
The adults may have little trouble adjusting to their new - or old - status. But it's different for Rocky Jr. (Sage Stallone). The tough kids at school begin using him for a punching bag. And when he begs his dad to give him boxing lessons for self-defense, Rocky is too busy training young fighter Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison), who has as much promise as the champ when he began. The pressure is a little too much for Rocky. Never noted for his intellect, he's in much worse shape from irreparable brain damage.
``Rocky V' marks the return of John G. Avildsen as director. He manages to suggest a glimmer of the appeal that was so evident in the original ``Rocky.'
By this time, Stallone's portrayal of the title character contains something of himself and a bit of Rambo dressed in a package of bad mannerisms from the mythological Balboa. Sounding more than ever like a confounded Mortimer Snerd, he makes one wish for an occasional subtitle just to make sure the plot is progressing according to formula. He relies heavily on inexplicable body language, flailing his arms, hunching his shoulders and contorting his face. All the effort merely emphasizes the shallowness of the role.
The other actors face the same problem, but, except for Young, they approach it more calmly. Young appears to be trying to ape Stallone in emotional gyrations. Shire proves once again to be a patient, dependable supporting player. Morrison, John Wayne's grand-nephew, has the required brawn, but little else to offer. And young Sage Stallone, Sly's son, is truly a chip off the old block. He knows exactly which buttons to push to get the desired emotional result.
The time is past due for Rocky Balboa to throw in the towel.
ROCKY V * 1/2 RATING: PG-13 for strong language and violence. THEATRES: Terrace, Litchfield and Circle 6 in Greensboro, Martin in High Point, Randolph 5 in Asheboro, North Point and Hanes in Winston-Salem and Countryside in Kernersville.