Chuck

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Chuck Movie Poster Image
Effective true-life boxing story has violence and drugs.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Raises the idea of how someone might feel if they nearly achieved great fame and then lost it; what's at stake? Demonstrates that drugs, while fleetingly enjoyable, are ultimately a destructive force.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Chuck isn't a great role model, but he does learn some life lessons that are worth the trouble: that fame isn't everything and that drugs aren't an answer. Some cultural slurs ("polack").

Violence

Brutal boxing violence, with bleeding cuts, broken noses, swollen eyes and faces. Kids fight in the streets, with bloody noses. A couple argues.

Sex

Two topless women shown. Main character's naked bottom shown. Scantily clad women ogled/objectified in nightclub. Kissing. Main character tries to seduce his wife, kisses her, and climbs on top of her. He cheats on her several times. Flirting. Man touches girl's bottom on dance floor. "Stripper" pen shown (ink drains from picture to reveal naked woman).

Language

Very strong language throughout, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "ass," "d--khead," "balls," "piss," "bimbo."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character becomes a long-term cocaine user and a heavy drinker. Characters drink too much at parties and wake up with hangovers. The main character also sells liquor to bars; many scenes of social drinking are shown. Smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chuck is a biopic about heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber), who went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali and became the inspiration for the movie Rocky, despite never having much of a career afterward. This is the story of Wepner's downfall, but it's still interesting and sympathetic. Expect plenty of boxing violence, with punching, bloody faces, broken noses, and swollen eyelids. The main character cheats on his wife multiple times and is seen flirting with and trying to seduce women. Two topless women are shown, Wepner's naked bottom is seen, and there's kissing, as well as men ogling and grabbing women's behinds on the dance floor. Language is very strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "p---y." The character becomes a long-term cocaine user as well as a heavy drinker; he's also an alcohol salesman. Social drinking is shown frequently (sometimes followed by painful hangovers), as is smoking.

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What's the story?

In CHUCK, Chuck Wepner (Liev Schreiber) is a liquor salesman by day and a heavyweight boxer by night. Nicknamed "The Bayonne Bleeder," he's able to take a punch, even though he seems to cut easily. In 1975, thanks to a combination of luck, timing, and publicity, he gets a shot at fighting none other than heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (who's fresh off nabbing his title from George Foreman). Most pundits predict that Chuck will lose, but he still goes 15 rounds and manages to knock Ali down once. After the fight, Chuck discovers cocaine and starts focusing on enjoying his fame and having a good time. A year later, he learns that Sylvester Stallone's hit film Rocky was inspired by him, and he begins trying to add that to his dwindling fame. Chuck meets Stallone and auditions for a part in Rocky II, but already it's clear that this chapter of Chuck's life is over. But what's next?

Is it any good?

Based on the true story of Chuck Wepner, this biopic seems more like an anecdote than a story, but the lack of important events allows room for the character to come alive. In Chuck, Liev Schreiber is quite impressive as the boxer, physically transforming into the real thing, battling it out in the ring covered in sweat and blood and finding an emotional core to the wants and needs of this character -- the tragedy of nearly achieving fame and then losing it.

The Ali fight and the meetings with Stallone are clearly the highlights of the movie, as they were in Chuck's life, and director Philippe Falardeau gives them an irresistible energy (the actors who portray these legends in their youth are a fine touch, too). The character's life goes downhill, and though -- through the grimy, gaudy cinematography -- it may seem as if the film is also going that way, it somehow stays emotionally potent. Despite the fact that Chuck makes many of the mistakes that characters in biopics usually make (drugs, foolishly spending money, alienating his wife and kids, etc.), they seem like honest errors. And, like the little poems Chuck tries to write for people, the movie turns out to be both naive and sweetly appealing. Naomi Watts helps a great deal as the wise, cynical bartender who catches Chuck's eye.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Chuck's violence. Does it seem appropriate to the subject/story, or does it feel excessive? How does it compare to what you might see in an action movie? Do all kinds of media violence have the same impact?

  • How are drug use and drinking portrayed? Does Wepner look like he's enjoying himself, or punishing himself? Are there consequences for his actions? Why does that matter?

  • How is sex shown in the movie? Is the main character looking for love/a trusted partner, or is he looking for momentary pleasure? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • How do you think it would feel to become almost famous and then lose it all? Can you sympathize with Chuck?

  • How does this movie compare to other real-life boxing stories you've seen?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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