After two similar Rocky movies Rocky III takes a detour by amping down on the drama and going more for light hearted entertainment. Rocky, now world champion after defeating Apollo is making serious money with matches where he defends his title and commercials, because since he learned how to read in Rocky II he’s now able to do so. Rocky is now wealthy, lives in a big house and has moved out of the slums. Mickey and Paulie have both moved out of their respective homes and live with Rocky now, though Paulie is having difficulty adjusting to his brother in laws success as he himself is still the underachiever he was when we first met him.
When a statue of Rocky is being revealed Rocky is challenged by fierce fighter Clubber Lang (Mr T) who demands his shot at the title and Rocky, defending his honor grants him that shot not knowing that Clubber might be to him what he was to Apollo.
Rocky III is the movie where the cries starts to aim for entertainment more than drama. The movie features a fight between Rocky and Hulk Hogan playing a wrestler named Thunderlips for charity and Mr T’s Clubber Lang is more of a comic book character than an actual boxer. Adding to the light hearted feel is a pop music soundtrack consisting of the legendary Eye Of The Tiger and the fact that movie not only takes place in the summer, but switches to California in the second half. Gone are the grey shades of Philadelphia in the winter.
Despite all these touches to make it a Rocky “light” the movie has one of the most dramatic moments of all: the death of Mickey. It’s a necessary step to progress the series and together with his loss to Clubber Lang early on provides the depression Rocky is in. Also returning is former opponent Apollo Creed, now offering to train Balboa for the rematch after Mickey’s death. This is the reason Rocky gets a change of scenery and a change in training. Instead of running up the stairs we now get Rocky running on the beach and learns how to move like a black man. Rocky might have been the world’s first wigger.
This is the schizophrenia this movie has, at one point it has one of the most dramatic events in the series on the other side it’s a really entertaining flick and while Rocky is depressed the tone of his surroundings are colorful and bright. So bright the training montages actually become gay. There are a few scenes less gay than Rocky training in a tank top and running across the beach with Apollo hugging and dancing in the surf.
But Rocky III is better than Rocky II just because it goes into a different direction and takes chances. It has a great theme song in Eye Of The Tiger and is a brisk paced movie that makes for good entertainment. The drama might reach soap opera levels where the death of a character doesn’t have an enormous impact on the audience but because the movie works on such a level where a cartoon character like Clubber Lang fits in perfectly I recommend this movie to anyone who wants to watch a good 80s sports movie.