Parents' Guide to

Sly

By Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Compelling docu about action star has language, violence.

Movie R 2023 96 minutes
Sly: Sylvester Stallone documentary shows star in silhouette walking

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This professionally compiled, firsthand analysis of Stallone's career might contain some new insights for Rocky and Rambo fans, but it falls short of painting a full portrait of the man himself. That's because in Sly, Stallone seems to have kept some topics -- namely, his wife and children -- largely off the table. Perhaps that's reflective of reality, as the last 15 minutes of the film suggest, when Stallone starts talking about how much he missed out on his family life to pursue his career, concluding that professional success ultimately means nothing without the love of his family. His son's tragically young death is memorialized but goes unremarked by Stallone, as do reports of a near-divorce. Other than one archived sound bite, his wife and daughters make just one, shadowy appearance in this documentary. All the other commentators, besides Rocky co-star Talia Shire, are men.

Instead, the film builds a case that Stallone's personality and motivation to succeed arose from the emotional and physical "dents" of growing up with an abusive father and a largely absentee mother. Stallone opens up a lot about that difficult relationship, and he discusses at length how it informed his writing and acting over the years. He narrates his own career chronology, offering fascinating insights into the significance and inspiration of specific scenes from his films and various career choices over the years. (As the film's evocative poster suggests, Rocky looms large.) His main messages seem to be, like Rocky, to keep getting up when life knocks you down, to not get complacent, and to prioritize what really matters -- potentially helpful reminders for some viewers. Sly's intelligent commentary and self-awareness contrast with his somewhat oafish action-hero profile, and the documentary keeps an engaging pace that stays interesting throughout.

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