CreedcoverGrade: B+
Entire family: No
2015, 133 min., Color
Warner Bros./MGM
Rated PG-13 for violence, language, and some sensuality
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 7.1
Bonus features: C+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD
Amazon link

You’ve heard the jokes about Rocky XX and so on. After the popular film franchise, which began with Rocky in 1976, came out with Rocky II (1979), III (1982), IV (1985), and V (1990) in what seemed like rapid succession, entertainment writers started tossing off one-liners about the series continuing down the road with Sylvester Stallone eventually mixing it up with residents at a rest home from his wheelchair.

Well, who’s laughing now? Not only did Stallone prove he still had it with Rocky Balboa (2006), but with Creed he shows that he can effortlessly shift from the Rocky role into the role of boxing trainer—a part that Burgess Meredith made famous, and for which Meredith earned an Oscar nomination.

CreedscreenStallone earned an Oscar nomination for his initial role as Rocky, and he earned his second acting Oscar nomination for playing Rocky Balboa the trainer in this 2015 sport drama. What that means, all you jokers, is that Rocky CAN go on for many more years, though now the title shifts to Creed. And Creed II, III, or whatever. It’s no longer dependent upon Stallone’s ability to give or take a punch.

Stallone is as engaging as Meredith’s crusty seen-it-all trainer, and his performance anchors the film, both as a presence and as a plot point that’s central to the screenplay. The son of Apollo Creed fighting for the championship with boxing legend Rocky Balboa, “The Italian Stallion,” in his corner? It’s a dream-come-true for boxing promoters, and just as dreamy for filmmakers wanting to inject this storied but stalled franchise with a new shot of adrenalin.

As Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of Rocky’s deceased foe-and-friend who has a rap sheet as long as his juvenile hall stays, Michael B. Jordan comes to the film buff and ready to go the full 12 rounds. As Creed’s widow, Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show, Do No Harm) isn’t nearly the tough-love foster parent young Donnie needs, but that only goes to show that he’s more boxer-at-heart than he is criminal-at-heart. As he trains we see him go down the same streets and marketplaces as Rocky once did, and also climbing those famous Philadelphia Museum of Art steps that are commemorated by a statue of Rocky that’s also shown in the film. Though it’s not intrusively nostalgic or formulaic, fans will still notice quite a few similarities between Rocky and Creed. Both are headstrong and self-taught lumps of coal that need a little compressed discipline and training to be come diamonds, both get a shot at the championship well before they’re ready, both find a skull-cap wearing trainer, and both find a woman that motivates them. It’s Rocky all over again, but shifting characters makes it feel like a double-layered film rather than a formulaic exercise.

Creedscreen1The first four Rocky films and Rocky Balboa were rated PG, but Creed follows in the footsteps of Rocky V, with a PG-13 rating for violence, language, and some sensuality. But Creed is more violent and intense than any of the previous Rocky films, and there’s an implied sex scene and more language (including the F-word). So it’s every bit a PG-13 film. It’s also an entertaining film because the characters are likable, they grow and have good chemistry together (including Jordan and Tessa Thompson, who plays love-interest Bianca, a singer going permanently deaf), and the plot framework itself is a proven winner. Creed is Rocky for a new generation, with realistically choreographed boxing sequences, plenty of attitude, and just as much punch. And a sparkling transfer to Blu-ray and DTS-HDMA 7.1 really brings it all to vivid life.

Language: Typical range of PG-13 swear words, with at least one f-bomb tossed
Sex: Nothing graphic or too revealing, but there is naked skin and implied coupling, plus plenty of kissing
Violence: More violence both inside and outside the ring than in previous Rocky movies; people get beat, people get hurt
Adult situations: There’s not so much in the way of drinking as there was in previous Rocky movies
Takeaways: If you’re going to continue a series of films and not be worrying about your star’s physical capabilities, this reboot is certainly a good way to solve the problem, and Stallone is just as engaging as a trainer in a supporting role as he was the boxer and star