A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rocky IV is a 1985 sequel in which Rocky takes on a boxing powerhouse from the Soviet Union. Unsurprisingly, there's frequent boxing violence, including the death of a lead character in the ring. Some blood. Cigar and cigarette smoking and some drinking. During a training montage, the Russian boxer is shown getting injected with steroids. Profanity includes "goddamn," "damn," and "hell." Some stereotyping -- Russian lead characters portrayed as cold, conniving, and duplicitous. Aside from this, in addition to all the Rocky franchise trademarks -- the montages, the seemingly indomitable foe, Adrian shrieking in horror while watching Rocky take a brutal pounding in the ring -- the movie offers a slice of 1980s Cold War fare, and in light of recent increased tensions between the United States and Russia, could inspire discussion among families about how the two countries and their people are portrayed. Note: A 35th-anniversary edit/edition of the film has some content differences from the original theatrical cut (which is the one reviewed here) and is rated PG-13.
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What's the story?
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) are trying to settle into what is supposed to be the "happily ever after" of their lives after successful careers in boxing in ROCKY IV. But when the Soviet Union brags to an international audience that their boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is the greatest boxer in the world, Apollo, out of a sense of personal and patriotic pride, offers to fight against Drago in an unofficial prime time match in Las Vegas. But when what's supposed to be an exhibition match turns into something else when Drago's punches kill Apollo in the ring, Rocky knows that, in spite of his initial reluctance to box once again, he has no choice but to fight Drago in the Soviet Union.
Is it any good?
This '80s sequel was a hit when it came out, but it hasn't necessarily aged well. Around the time this movie was made, "Weird Al" Yankovic came out with a parody of the Survivor hit "Eye of the Tiger" called "Theme from Rocky XIII, aka The Rye or the Kaiser" in which Rocky Balboa, long past his prime, now owns and operates a neighborhood deli. This was a few years before sequels and spinoffs of any hit movie (to say nothing of remakes) were to be expected from Hollywood, and the song perfectly encapsulates the problem with nearly all sequels: They wear out the welcome of the original idea. This definitely applies to Rocky IV. While relevant to its time with its Cold War rivalries acted out in the boxing ring, and perhaps relevant in light of contemporary tensions between America and Russia, it's still a movie that is as 1980s as it gets, and sometimes hilariously so.
Scenes in which a Mikhail Gorbachev-lookalike, flanked by similarly dour-faced members of the Politburo, looks proud then displeased then inspired by Rocky's post-fight pleas for peace and unity in the world are almost too corny to be believed. The montage songs sound like the direct inspiration for the song "Montage" from Team America: World Police. And the few lines Dolph Lundgren is given makes the early work of Arnold Schwarzenegger seem like the best of Sir Laurence Olivier by comparison. And then there's that utterly bizarre female robot who was a birthday gift for Paulie. All of this and then some makes this an entertaining movie, but not necessarily for the reasons Sylvester Stallone intended.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about 1980s movies. What are some ways in which Rocky IV is a good representation of movies from that decade?
How are America and the Soviet Union's cultures compared in this movie? Are there any stereotypes?
What are some of the hallmarks of the Rocky movies? Why have they remained so popular?
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