Monday, March 17, 2014

Rocky Through a Kid's Eyes: The Good Ones

November 21, 1976

In a bizarrely unusual turn of events, I tried to get my family to watch a high quality, Oscar winning film that did not involve anyone wielding a sword or making unrefusable offers.

I will never forget that Rocky won the best picture Oscar in 1976, because of uttering the line, “that kind of movie never wins,” and causing our team to miss an important wedge question in an Up the Lake Trivial Pursuit game.

Sorry about that Linda.

The fact that it was also a love story was far too strange to even bring up.

My daughter had a great dislike of boxing in general.  My wife had the same opinion, plus was no fan of Stallone.

There would be a fight well before Balboa donned his gloves.

Still I persevered, and after surviving multiple Disney Channel “comedies” and watching far more bridal dress fittings than any man should have to live through, they relented.

The film opened with the artistically composed shot in the low rent gym establishing tone, character and setting in one fell swoop.

This prompted my daughter to exclaim, even before the camera came in full focus,
“There’s too much boxing in this movie.”

Clearly, there were hurdles to overcome.

As the characters interacted and the plot progressed, the educational value of the film surfaced.

For example, I was able to teach my daughter what a loan shark was.  She also got a crash course in stickball, including the answer to the question, “Why don’t they play on a field?”

Perhaps she’s growing up a bit too sheltered.

A different kind of learning occurred internally as she figured out why Mickey was being “so mean” to Rocky, based on expectations, potential and opportunities.

She may understand why I’m such a pain in the butt about her checking and revising schoolwork now.

As the story unfolded, there was a definite shift as she remained very attentive and patient with both the heated and even the quiet scenes.  On the other couch, I noticed my wife spending more time peeking around the newspaper than hiding behind it.

It wasn’t a total success, while she enjoyed his relationship with Butkis, (and she “knew” he’d get a puppy) my daughter made the same “EEEEEWWWWW!” noise when Rocky kissed Adrian that she did when he drank the raw eggs.

She’s willing to dance for hours on end but hates sports because “it’s a different kind of sweat.” This gave her some rather vocal reactions to the training sequence.

The one armed push-ups were greeted with a simple, “Good grief.”
The multiple varieties of sit ups, however, caused a louder and stronger, “Oh God!”

At the climax of the film, thanks to the magnetic storytelling and the appeal of the characters, both women in my family who were completely opposed to boxing in principle, were focused on and invested in the championship fight.

The final educational value of the movie appeared at the start of the fifteenth and final round.

My daughter turned to me full of excitement and said:
“He did what he set out to do.”

She got it!

Following “Yo, Adrian! We did it!” she and I grabbed some sets of over padded toy boxing gloves I had bought years before, in case the need arose Up the Lake again.  We spent much of the rest the night in various simulations of the sport she decreed the first second of the film had too much of, while her converted Mother cheered her on and took pictures.

Rocky II
June 15, 1979

The sequel began with the exact same fight we had just seen a week before.  My daughter watched it intently a second time.  No bad for a kid that didn’t like boxing.

She was constantly asking when Rocky would get better, and what day they would “fix him.”  Similar to other series, holding a box set with four other films in it killed some of the suspense.

My wife was on some strong painkillers, but still followed along despite the loopy pills. They may have enhanced her extended and strong, “Awwwwwwww!” at the wedding scene.

Questions once again came from my child indicating she was sheltered:
“He doesn’t know how to drive?”

However, she also picked things up very quickly:
“What if he doesn’t get any money?”
*depressed look of realization*

They both were glued with rapt attention to the drama surrounding Adrian’s medical condition, expressing increasing concern until my daughter was practically screaming at me, “You told me he fights in every movie!”

My wife’s narcotic enhanced puppy face added to the tirade.

It’s interesting to note Apollo establishes himself in the second film, even more so than the first, as willing to do or say anything, to the point of compromising his own image, to remain in the lime light.  This attitude pretty much defined his character for the arc he continued on through Rocky III and Rocky IV.

Once the “Just win” moment passed my formerly anti-pugilistic family members both enthusiastically followed along for the ride.

My daughter cheered for the chicken, not only when Rocky caught it, but also in general.

“Ooh!  A chicken!”

That’s my girl.

My wife had given up the newspaper entirely while Rocky trained (again, pills may be to blame for this) and was laughing considerably at Mickey’s great lines, showing she still knew what was going on.

The fight was finally underway, and I can proudly say that my child now knows where,
“The Body, the body, the body, Aaaaahhhhh! “
Came from, which she heard every time her old man saw any kind of fisticuffs.

Another observation of my own:
They made a huge deal about how The Italian Stallion was fighting right handed in the second movie, as opposed to his standard southpaw, as he did in the first title fight.

However, considering his main boxing style seemed to be built around leading with his face for several rounds, followed by plowing in hurling hooks with both hands, I’m not sure how the commentators noticed any change.

The two non-boxing fan ladies I live with were actively cheering by round ten. 
(Minus the occasional, “Eeeewww, blood!” of course.)

As the end drew near, my sweet little girl was yelling:

While my conflict averse wife was joining in with:

Both “YAY”ed aloud at the final punch, then began to cheer Rocky to stand up.

The power of these characters is really amazing isn’t it?

My daughter once again displayed excitement, but also understanding of the world they’d started to enjoy by saying:

“Yay he wins in this one.
What a mess, again.

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