Sylvester Stallone is dusting off his boxing gloves once again, looking to go a few rounds in the ring. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. This time, at least, it isn’t Rocky 8 or something similar. Sly’s opponent this time is Robert De Niro. You may remember that De Niro was also an iconic boxer in Raging Bull. Now these two are starring together in Grudge Match which is in theaters on Christmas Day and is rated PG-13 for sports action violence, sexual content and language. Before dismissing this as your typical Grumpy Old Boxing Men comedy -please read on.

The plot for Grudge Match is pretty straightforward. You’ve got two former boxers (Stallone and De Niro) who were bitter rivals back in their prime. During that time they fought twice, with each winning a bout. For reasons unknown at the time, a third match to break the tie never took place. Fast forward 30 years and a series of events leads these two toe-to-toe for one last showdown.

Going in I was very leery of the premise, but as Stallone has proven on several occasions, don’t be so quick to judge. The key to Grudge Match becoming more than your typical geriatric gigglefest, was the supporting cast. I’m convinced that you can insert Kevin Hart into any movie and the enjoyment factor will rise instantly. Hart plays the son of the promoter who handled the original fights. With his father being long dead and gone, Hart intends to resurrect the family business by handling things in his own way. Another smart move was bringing in Alan Arkin as friend and former manager/trainer to Stallone. Arkin is an ornery old man, hell bent on saying exactly what’s on his mind. And if he can get under Kevin Hart’s skin along the way, well that’s just a bonus. Rounding out the main supporting cast are Jon Bernthal and Kim Basinger.

The refreshing thing about Grudge Match is that in addition to the comedy aspect, there’s a nice, heartfelt story being told. The characters have to deal with regret, bad decisions and general everyday mundane crap that most people can relate to. There are many issues that have to be ironed out as the story unfolds -I was then drawn-in emotionally. This was unexpected but it was a very pleasant surprise. On the downside, the CGI was a bit gratuitous at times, leading to some distracting moments where I felt like I was watching an actual video game.

Overall, Grudge Match is an enjoyable movie but I won’t say it’s something that you absolutely need to rush out to see at premium ticket prices. If you should happen to see it, be warned that there is a scene during the credits so don’t jump up as soon as you think the movie’s over -because you’ll miss out on one of the funniest moments of the movie.

Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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