God is my Director

Youth ministry, movies, no drugs and a variable amount of Rock ‘n Roll

Rocky Balboa: youth worker

Posted by Martin on January 30, 2007

Went to see Rocky Balboa with my good friend Chris last night, and wanted to post my thoughts. But first:

DISCLAIMER: Rocky Balboa is clearly a big piece of cheese. The script is pretty basic, and some of the acting is not going to win any awards. I realise this, ok?

Right – now that’s out of the way… what a great movie! It’s been a long time since a piece of cinema literally got me leaping out of my seat in excitement, but Sylvester Stallone’s last (please Sly) Rocky movie managed it. I have to admit that like most people, I was fairly exasperated to hear that he was actually making what was effectively Rocky 6, especially since he’s hardly a youngster anymore. But what Stallone said was that he wanted to give the story a ‘proper’ ending, and indeed, that’s what this movie really feels like.

One of the most striking aspects of the film is the music, and one, haunting tune in particular: a recurring reworking of the famous Rocky theme on tinkling piano. It’s a poignant piece which perfectly captures the retrospective feel of the movie. Rocky’s life and career are drawing to some kind of close – but there is still unfinished business, and still too much sadness in the protagonist’s life.

Despite the simplicity of the story and script, there’s a raw emotional energy that will resonate with many. And even though it’s completely ridiculous, watching Rocky go back into training for one more fight is a pretty cathartic experience. I recommend it!

What really interested me however, was how Stallone both wove in his own Christian spirtuality (example line: why you gotta do something to get something back?), and his hopes for young people. One outstanding scene features Rocky choosing a new dog, and taking the teenage son of his platonic girlfriend to the dog home to do so. At first, the teenager messes about, and lives down to expectations. But when Rocky empowers him, asking him to help choose a name for the animal, the teen softens, and, once he realises that he is genuinely valued, contributes. It’s a small thing, but it made a big impact on me – seems to me that Sly believes we need to listen to and respect young people more.

There’s a fairly big youth work theme in the movie in fact, from Rocky’s relationship with his son, to the gradual redemption of a teenage girl who is apparently transformed by watching his example. Again, a lot of this stuff is portrayed simply, but sometimes that’s the most effective way. There’s a lot more going on in this movie than some people will care to notice; I hope the cheese and the drawbacks won’t prevent cynics from spotting it.

If you don’t mind a bit of boxing-ring blood, this is a decent film to watch with teens.

One Response to “Rocky Balboa: youth worker”

  1. Len said

    My wife and I saw it opening day in Dec and we both felt like it was a fitting end to the series.

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