It's probably a bit of a spoiler to say so -- and you should stop reading now if you're expecting major surprises from this kind of film -- but there's a lovely moment of real human behavior at the end of this story. It's a climax that involves compassion and understanding, forgiveness and decency. And it has almost nothing to do with what precedes it.
the broken-down, embarrassed cinema-ghosts of Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta Razor (Sylvester Stallone) and The Kid (Robert De Niro) have a long-postponed date with destiny. An aborted match between the former late-heavyweight rivals never came to pass. They went their separate ways and now their late, crooked promoter's son (Kevin Hart, wasting his time, talent and energy) wants the two aging lions back in the ring, sponsored by Geritol. Yep, a Geritol joke, one finally loosened from the cold dead hand of Johnny Carson.
Grrrr, they're still so angry at each other, too, because of betrayal rivalry and Kim Basinger. Then there's 100 minutes of pinched-face un-jokes about balls, oldness, short people (Hart earns his money here), masculinity, male nurses, gay stuff, more balls, hookers, the internet, motion capture animation, punching sides of beef, drinking egg yolks, how girls fight, the soothing muscle relief of that product known as Ben Gay and, finally, stop touching Sly Stone's balls you men's suit tailor. Then comes the Grudge Match and that nice moment the film doesn't even begin to deserve.
There are levels of torment in bad, stilted, meaningless comedy like this but the greatest torment of all is watching two legendary screen presences assist other people while they dump all over the legend. Raging Bull, one of the greatest American films of the past 40 years, one that earned De Niro an Academy Award, takes less of a beating than Rocky, the sweet, heartfelt, crowd-pleasing Best Picture winner of 1976, but both come in for their share of low blows. The latter spawned increasingly ridiculous sequels that already began the march toward oblivion, so maybe it's fitting that this film slams the coffin shut with big stupid nails. Whatever brings in those paydays, I guess. Maybe this'll be a big hit and the sequel will be about these guys in the same nursing home, battling dementia and creamed corn and imagining a big re-match as they drift in and out of multiple daytime naps. It'll be no less offensive than this.