Rocky III (1982) — Mr. T pummels the fool

“You gotta get that look back, Rock. Eye of the tiger, man.”

Sue’s rating: I pity the fool!

Sue’s review: Nothing says nostalgia to me like the sight of ripped abs, the dull thwack of fist into solar plexus or the slurred syllables of Sylvester Stallone. Actually I just lied, because lots of things make me nostalgic: Fluffernutter sandwiches, Star Wars action figures, sand candles, skee-ball, M*A*S*H reruns, my Dad’s Perry Como collection… but Rocky certainly has his own little niche.

Of all the vintage Rocky movies, numero tres is probably my favorite. At the very least, I count it in the top two. However, I want to qualify that with a statement that will surely get me shunned from my home city of Philadelphia for all eternity.

The first sixty minutes of most (if not all) Rocky movies are pure, Grade-A schlock. Garbage. Dreck. Hooey. As in, wake me up when they quit their incessant yammering and start hitting each other, okay?

I mean, it’s not like most of the dialogue even makes much sense. For instance, there’s a lovely beach scene where Adrian (the l’il missus) gives Rocky a very long-winded motivational speech. It’s very emotional. Stunningly dramatic. The problem is, I have no idea what she was talking about. I checked with my kids. They couldn’t make heads or tails out of it either. But then, this is part of the Rocky formula. Bore them to tears, wake them up with a pulse hammering workout sequence with groovy music, then proceed to huge climactic fight to end all fights — at least until the next movie.

My goodness, I had no idea I was so full of negativity today!

Anyway, now that I’ve stomped all over the sanctity of this indisputably successful Philly-centric franchise, why do I like Rocky III? I can think of four reasons:

1. For a change of pace, Rocky doesn’t walk into the ring — at least initially — as the underdog. This is Rocky in his prime, knocking guys over like a sixteen-year-old takes out orange traffic cones during driver’s ed. He’s on top of the world — so invincible in fact that he’s believing his own spin doctors. Does it get a little overbearing? Sure, but it’s not exactly a story filled with subtleties. Plus, the charity match with Hulk Hogan as the mighty “Thunder Lips” is actually darned good entertainment.

2. This may be the first and last time I say this in print, but MR. T RAWKED THE FRIGGIN’ HOWSE! Now before you all point at me and laugh, remember, this movie (like yours truly,) predates the T who guzzled milk, hated airplanes, saved countless widows and orphans, and went through hapless extras (usually dressed in flannel shirts) like a paper shredder goes through junk mail. [Side note: If my parents should ever read this, they might like to know that the only punishment they conjured up for me in my early teen years that really, really worked was making me miss The A-Team, Simon & Simon or, heaven forbid, Airwolf.] Anyway, back in the day, all anyone knew about the mohawkish dude in Rocky III was that he was meaner than a very mean thing. Scary mean. In your face mean. I mean… MEAN!

3. Fifteen rounds? Yo! Youse don’t need no lousy fifteen rounds! An’ youse’re hearin’ it from me, y’know? From the depths of my heart, y’know?

Seriously, thank you to the filmmakers for keeping the fisticuffs fresh, fast and exciting by not dragging the fights out to an unbelievable length. Too much of a good thing sort of ruins the effect. Why yes, in this case two guys bashing each other’s lights out is a good thing. Boxing might not be my cuppa, but it does beat a movie about cricket or even badminton.

4. “Eye of the Tiger.” Okay, I think the term is used heavy handedly in the movie, but the song itself is truly awesome. Only Top Gun’s “Danger Zone” and the theme to Star Wars come close to it for eliciting sheer zany euphoria while tooling down the Interstate at four in the morning.

I mean, so I’ve been told…

Justin’s rating: “Are you telling me that you bet on the fight in Rocky III and you bet AGAINST Rocky?” (apologies to Dirty Work)

Justin’s review: I’d almost given up on my Rocky marathon after Rocky II — boxing is not the greatest thrill in my life (I reserve that spot for bananas), and the omnipresent ’70s décor sucked me into a hell full of shag carpeting and eternal earth tones. I am glad I stuck it out to see Rocky III, because here, finally, the series starts to get fun in a big way.

We can discount Rocky II from being a true sequel right away. It was too afraid to do anything new, and as a result ended up being a dull two-hour epilogue instead of a new exciting chapter. Rocky III dares to be different, evidenced by the awesomeness of the ’80s: Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. I can’t think of any other movie where three massive pop culture legacies converge for your viewing entertainment, but this is the way it should be!

Rocky (Sly Stallone) seems to be having more fun, as well. Long past needing to prove himself, Rocky basks in his title glory and growing fan base. Merchandising is making him rich, but the humble Rocky continues to give back to charity through publicity matches, such as the one against the world’s greatest wrestler (Mr. Hogan). To see a boxer take on a wrestler is odd beyond belief, but man… isn’t it just choice? The Italian Stallion even gets honored with a statue on the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps. Where’s my statue?

But just as Rocky is all hunky dory, his world begins to implode. It’s revealed that Rocky’s been carefully shielded from true threats to his position, causing him to become soft and weak. Right about then, an angry, hungry challenger named Clubber Lang (Mr. T) comes out of nowhere to KO the champ within a couple rounds, yanking his title and self-respect away. And to top things off, his long-time friend and trainer Micky goes to the Great Spit Bucket in the Sky. Bummer.

Just when you think he’s down… the movie ends. That’s it. Sucks to be Rocky. NO WAY. Yeah you’re right, I’m just jerkin’ your chain. Of course Rocky comes back to take on Mr. T, but only with the help of his new trainer… his former foe Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). How tremendous is that?

While Rocky established itself with Oscar cred, and Rocky II kept the money rolling in, Rocky III pushed this star into the embrace of the hordes of regular moviegoers. It’s obviously not trying to do anything — such as “drama” or “character study” — other than to entertain the most people it can, and in that respect it’s a winner. The fights are energetic and intense, and we still have Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” lodged somewhere in the midsection of our brainial areas.

Three movies down, three to go. And I mean to go the distance. Because… I can’t box, so I turn to movies as my competitive sport. Yeah. That’s my excuse, what’s yours?

Didja notice?

  • During the fights, those guys were glossier than plastic Barbie dolls.
  • Bob Hope. I miss Bob Hope.
  • Paulie throws a very accurate bottle of hooch.
  • During Rocky’s flashbacks, there’s a shot of him wearing the star spangled shorts that he hadn’t been given yet.
  • Props for sincerity and emotion during Adrian’s “pep talk”, but did she actually say anything that made any sense? In fact, did anyone ever say anything that made any sense?
  • Funny how it sort of glosses over Apollo’s stated reason for helping Rocky. Money.
  • You know, when you’re a kid, you tend to miss homoerotic overtones in movies… but now… sheesh. Gentlemen, please contain your enthusiasm.
  • Paulie seems to get over his drunken resentment pretty quickly, all things considered.
  • Nobody can snarl like Mr. T. Nobody. Fool.
  • Is it just me, or is it possibly a questionable tactic to psych yourself up by letting a veritable three hundred pound gorilla pummel your forehead with his fists?
  • Ah, breaking out “Eye of the Tiger” right away – good choice!
  • Could’ve done without the endless montage, tho
  • Rocky on The Muppets!
  • Rocky: The Pinball game!
  • Yes, Sly Stallone sings, baby
  • Hulk freakin’ Hogan, as “Thunderlips”
  • The one announcer’s super funky moustache
  • The marching band rendition of the Rocky theme
  • If someone needs to go to the hospital right away, it’s a great time for a talk about how the fight went
  • On his casket, it states that Mick was born in 1905
  • Well that’s something I never needed to see: Carl Weathers in a skimpy tank top
  • SLO-MO MAN HUGS!
  • “Rocky III” is actually displayed on screen three separate times at the start of the film (first scrolling onto the screen from right to left, then spelled out with fireworks and finally in simple text at the bottom right of the screen, several minutes later).
  • The montage also includes Stallone’s appearance in the 1976 Academy Awards.

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