Scott Marks 3:29 p.m., May 24
The prizefighting premise — a second-rate Philadelphia pug named Rocky Balboa gets a shot at the heavyweight title — functions very well as a metaphor for the making of this penny-saving, corner-cutting movie — a second-string actor named Sylvester Stallone gets a shot at the Oscar. But the boxing doesn't function very well as boxing; it more closely resembles the bloody, contrived, seesawing melodramatics of professional wrestling. Moreover, the movie's gritty details of environment and character are really nothing but decorative touches to cover up the essential Cinderella-story sweetness, the rabid underdog sympathies, and the resilient optimism. Rocky, a nice little movie at best, is primarily about how an Ugly Duckling, languishing in a pet shop behind her 1947-style glasses frames, flowers into fulfilled womanhood under the ham-fisted attentions of a palooka who calls himself "The Italian Stallion." And it really has less kinship to the hard-boiled Kid Galahad-type movie than it has to the soft-hearted Marty type. With Talia Shire, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith; written by Stallone; directed by John G. Avildsen. 1976.
— Duncan Shepherd