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 V is a 1990 shark-jumping sequel of the beloved franchise. While the boxing violence in any Rocky movie is to be as expected as the excessive montage usage, the violence in this one is as much out of the ring as in it. In fact, a big takeaway here is that violence is the best and perhaps only way to solve any and all conflicts. Be it Rocky's issues with his protégé-turned-Judas Tommy Gunn, or Rocky Jr.'s bullying at the hands of young teen street punks, the lingering message is that fighting makes everything OK. The issue of concussions and brain damage is discussed occasionally, but instead of it being actually meaningful and substantive, the issue just seems to be there as a device to move the story. There are shots of brief male nudity, buttocks. Rocky tells Adrian that he wants to "violate [her] like a parking meter." Rocky finds a drawing his son made of his French teacher, topless, with her large bust accentuated. The movie has drinking, drunkenness, and smoking, as well as some profanity: "bulls--t," "goddamn," "bitch," "damn," and "hell." Overall, the story is unnecessary, with forced storylines and the sense that the whole thing was phoned in.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
After pulling off the incredible defeat of Soviet powerhouse Ivan Drago, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is still the champion at the start of ROCKY V. But when he can't stop his hands from shaking after the fight with Drago, doctors confirm that all the fights and blows to the head have taken their toll on Rocky; he has suffered brain damage and is told to stop fighting if he wants to continue living. As if this weren't bad enough, Rocky and Adrian (Talia Shire) learn that their fortune has been completely stolen after an unscrupulous accountant took advantage of Uncle Paulie (Burt Young) and had him sign documents giving away the money. Suddenly broke, Rocky, Adrian, Paulie, and Rocky Jr. must leave their palatial mansion and go back to where they started: the streets of North Philadelphia, where they still own their old flat in the neighborhood, as well as the old gym that used to belong to Rocky's late trainer, Mickey (Burgess Meredith). Rocky decides to reopen the gym as Adrian takes her old job back at the neighborhood aquarium store, and Rocky Jr. makes the transition from elite prep school to tough inner-city public school. This is when Tommy Gunn, a young boxer from Oklahoma, arrives practically on Rocky's doorstep, begging Rocky to train and manage him. Rocky is reluctant at first, but when he does agree to train and manage Gunn, he begins to vicariously experience the boxing thrills he once knew firsthand, at the expense of his relationships with Adrian and Rocky Jr. But as Gunn's career rises through the ranks of boxing, Gunn feels he's being portrayed as a puppet of Rocky by the press, and he's lured into the glamorous life by a corrupt boxing promoter trying to lure Rocky back into the ring. Gunn unceremoniously dumps Rocky without a trace of remorse. When Gunn defeats the current boxing champion, the press tells Gunn he's a fake because he never fought the champion who went out on top: Rocky. With reporters and camera crews, Gunn -- goaded by his promoter -- goes to the neighborhood bar where Rocky now hangs out, and demands that he fight him so his title has legitimacy. Rocky refuses, but when Gunn knocks over Uncle Paulie, Rocky decides to settle this once and for all -- not in the ring, but outside on the street.
Is it any good?
There was really no credible reason for this sequel to be made, and it shows in the forced storyline. Every plot point seems a little too convenient. Convenient, but also a jumbled mess of three stories happening at once -- Rocky adjusting to his new life while vicariously living through a protégé, Rocky Jr. learning to stand up to bullies while also struggling to get the attention of his father, and a corrupt boxing promoter stopping at nothing to get Rocky back in the ring, despite his old age and brain damage. This chaos especially manifests itself in the inevitable montage sequences. So much is happening, and yet, none of it really needs to happen, because it's beyond redundant by this fifth movie in the franchise.
At times, Rocky V feels like little more than an excuse for Stallone to spend time with his son Sage Stallone, who plays the young teen Rocky Jr. Messages on the exploitation of professional athletes and also the effects of concussions and brain damage on aging athletes could actually have meaning to the story but are basically mentioned in passing and only seem to exist to give Rocky a reason to move back to Philly and not step in the ring. It's the proverbial "shark-jumping" sequel if there ever was one, and one of those sequels that cheapens the legacy of the original classic Rocky.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sequels. Why do you think they are made? Why is it that sequels are usually not as good as the original? Are there any examples of sequels being just as good if not better than the original movie?
What messages does Rocky V send about the use of violence when faced with conflict? Did the violence in the movie seem like a natural extension of who these characters were, or did it seem forced and gratuitous?
How does this one compare to other Rocky movies?
- In theaters: November 16, 1990
- On DVD or streaming: May 6, 2014
- Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young
- Director: John Avildsen
- Studio: MGM
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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