The Unenthusiastic Critic is like Ivan Drago: whatever she hits, she destroys. This week, she’s lacing up her gloves for a marquee matchup: 1976’s Rocky and 1985’s Rocky IV.
Like the Rocky franchise itself, the conversation starts in a serious place, and ends up somewhere else. First, we’re having a (relatively) serious discussion about great white hope narratives, the neutered appropriation of Muhammad Ali, and how Rocky speaks to the plight of the dispossessed working-class white man.
Then, for desert, we’re going the distance with the ridiculous, Reagan-era, agitprop montage-fest of Balboa v. Drago in Rocky IV.
Come for the sophisticated analysis of subtle racial themes, stay for the speculation about Paulie having creepy sex with his talking birthday robot.
—0:00: Prologue: from College Humor’s “If Rocky 4 Happened for Real (30 for 30 Parody)”
—0:33: Preliminary Discussion: Boxing Movies and Great White Hopes
—8:32: Interlude: from Coming to America (1988)
—9:43: Cultural Osmosis: Pre-Viewing Discussion of the Rocky movies
—17:49: Rocky (1976) Trailer
—19:21: The Verdict I: Post-Viewing Discussion of Rocky
—52:36: Rocky IV (1985) Trailer
—54:37: The Verdict II: Post-Viewing Discussion of Rocky IV.
—1:37:34: Outro and Next Week’s Movie
Notes and Links
—Films reviewed: Rocky (MGM, 1976) and Rocky IV (MGM, 1985).
—Reviews discussed: Vincent Canby on Rocky, nytimes.com; A.D. Murphy on Rocky, variety.com; Roger Ebert on Rocky and Rocky IV, rogerebert.com; Jason Bailey on Rocky IV, flavorwire.com.
—Articles referenced: “The Great White Hope remains the star of Hollywood while black fighters are largely ignored,” Matthew Bazell, boxingnewsonline.net; “Watching Rocky II with Muhammad Ali,” Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com.
—Listen to additional episodes and read The Unenthusiastic Critic in prose form at unaffiliatedcritic.com. Email us, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook. (Suggestions of movies to watch for future episodes are welcome.)
—Theme Music: “Warm Duck Shuffle” by Arne Huseby, licensed under CC BY 3.0.