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Rocky Balboa: Heart of a Champion

12/25/2006 - 6:05 AM PST

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By Deacon Keith A. Fournier
Catholic Online

Rocky Balboa is the Crown of the Rocky Series. It is an enduring tribute to the power of love, loyalty and perseverance. It opened on December 20, 2006 and is a wonderful Christmas gift for all.

Introduction

I must admit, I was more than excited!

From the moment I received the correspondence inviting me to join with “faith and values” leaders for a private pre-release screening of Rocky Balboa, followed by an opportunity to meet with Sylvester “Sly” Stallone after the film, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. You see, like millions the world over, I am a long time fan of these movies. I considered the opportunity of meeting the real "Rocky" to be a special and personal gift. I was to celebrate my fifty second birthday the day before the viewing. I knew I needed something to put hope back into my own life. These last two years have been among the most difficult, yet the most productive, of my life.

The Rocky movies (and I admit to having held a personal preference for Rocky III, at least prior to seeing this marvelous movie!) have always come through for me, in the most important moments, when I was close to defeat or despair. We all face these times; it is simply a part of our human experience. These films have inspired me throughout the "rough and tumble" of my own life and helped me to "begin again" on so many, many occasions! They express enduring themes such as the triumph of the good over evil, the power of faithful love, true loyalty and genuine friendship ....and they emphasize that our progress is produced through perseverance and guided by faith in something bigger than ourselves. For those of us who love them, these films inspire us to reach for the best and remind us that no matter how difficult our daily experience may become, we can overcome.

When I heard that the Hollywood “underdog”, the gifted man who defied so many odds in producing these films, Sylvester Stallone, had come home to his Christian Faith and produced a final film meant to complete the series, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas.

I was not disappointed!

The Film

The movie opens in simplicity, with little fanfare, recalling the earthy feel of the first film and inviting the viewer into the lived experience of so many who have grown up in cities like Philadelphia. We meet an older Rocky, who has moved into the autumn of his life. He has also lost the love of his life, his wife Adrian. His son Robert has grown up and, for a myriad of reasons understood by any who have raised children to adulthood, can now find little time for his father whom he thinks “throws a big shadow” because of his celebrity in the City. Rocky is still loved by that City of brotherly love. He is their favorite son, who is now contributing to the City’s tax base, as the owner of a restaurant named “Adrians” where people go to eat, meet, and greet the former champ, hear his stories, and reminisce. This older Rocky is a good man with a pure heart. He has weathered many storms and the lines on his face reveal their effects.

The viewer is immediately introduced into the world of the champ, by accompanying him, with his old friend and brother in law Pauly, through an annual ritual of visiting the cemetery of his dear wife, and then all of the places where their love was fostered, matured and developed, becoming the guiding force for his life. We are also immediately confronted, at the level of real emotion, with the prevailing theme of this great film, that only love lasts and, that when it is given away it grows, transforming not only the one who gives, but everyone who is touched in the process. The movie is not overtly religious. However, that is part of its great contribution. It communicates spiritual truth in a wonderfully human manner and will do so beyond the audience that would go to a religious film.

The context within which this theme of growing in love, which is cultivated within a life filled with challenge, and experiencing trials as opportunities where wisdom can be learned is a great boxing movie. However, in a very real sense, Rocky Balboa is no more a boxing film than Chariots of Fire was a movie about running. Boxing is used as a metaphor for life in this film, with all of its struggles and opportunities. For me, though I also loved Chariots of Fire, Rocky Balboa is much more like my own life experience. I also believe that it will communicate to a much broader audience, not only because of its endearing “blue collar” context, but because of its gritty and real characters.

This film is about relationships. Like the enduring love between a husband and wife which continues beyond the grave because it has a redeeming power. The painful love between a father and a son, as the father watches his own son struggle with finding his own ...

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