Buzzer movie review! So, how bad is ‘Grudge Match?’
"Rocky" + "Raging Bull" = "Grudge Match?"
Why did I go to the movies on Christmas Day? Like so many families across America, our Christmas dinner actually started at 3 p.m. instead of "normal" dinner time. This meant that when evening actually rolled around we had already exhausted the typical sequence of: beer, cook, wine, eat, scotch, flashbacks, beer again until we arrived at that, "so what do we do now?" feeling. After re-discovering how few good movies are left on Netflix and flipping through the holiday marathons on cable my family finally decided to (dun, dun, dun) make the trip to the movie theater.
We had our heart set on "Grudge Match," the sports comedy about two washed-up old boxers given one last shot at a rubber match. Why? Because it had something for everyone from 16 to 60 years of age – Robert De Niro (70) and Sylvester Stallone (67) for the old heads, Kevin Hart for the young guns, and the combination of these acts for everyone in between.
However, once we got to our local Cineplex, it was immediately clear to me that while most families were lining up for "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," and the adults for "The Wolf of Wall Street," there was a serious lack of hype for "Grudge Match." That said, we were committed to seeing this movie through … and we really didn’t want to wait in line with a belly full of turkey (read: beer).
By the end of "Grudge Match," my family realized we probably made the wrong choice. Despite the 10 Oscar nominations between them, De Niro and Stallone mail in lukewarm performances in a popcorn flick that is otherwise without much story. For Stallone in particular, this movie was basically a revival of the disappointing Rocky Balboa (VI), except this time he’s fighting another old guy.
At times, "Grudge Match" feels like a bunch of random scenes cut together in between major plot points. None captures this feeling better than when Stallone and De Niro’s characters are forced to promote their upcoming rematch at a UFC fight and then get into a scuff when they bash on MMA while mic’d up in front of a packed stadium. FOX Sports 1’s own Chael Sonnen actually makes a cameo as the hero who swoops in to defend MMA’s honor – he slaps Stallone in the face and then proceeds to get KO’d. Props to Chael for having a good sense of humor, but this seven-minute scene gets us nowhere in the story.
Despite being cast as second fiddles, Hart and Alan Arkin are the silver linings of this film. Hart proves once again why he is at the top of today’s comedy game in the role of the over-the-top fight promoter, and Arkin delivers in his familiar role as the loveable curmudgeon who serves as Stallone’s life-long trainer. These two alone almost make the film worthwhile.
I won’t ruin how the big fight itself goes down in case you’re literally heading to the theater right now, but I will say the twists and turns of that climactic scene were entertaining so I’ll give credit where credit is due. On a related note, I found it hard to believe De Niro could stand toe to toe with Stallone after they shed their robes. Stallone still looks six-pack-ripped and De Niro, well … not so much.
P.S. If you stay through the credits you’ll catch a Mike Tyson/Evander Holyfield cameo, as Hart pitches them on a rematch. This reunion was teased in the film’s promo videos so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but seeing those two together is the definition of awesome. (Fun fact: Tyson and Holyfield are actually friends now. You can watch them rehash the "ear bite" in this clip from "BEING: Mike Tyson").
Buzzer rating: # #
If 1 hashtag is: "Norbit," then 2 hashtags is: My family had five free ticket vouchers we needed to use before 2014 and we managed a couple laughs.