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Family Movie Review: Creed (PG-13)

Creed ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13        Length: 132 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 14+. This latest film in the ‘Rocky’ boxing franchise has the kind of action you would expect from that sports genre; there are only two major fights in the film, but they’re shot in a way that doesn’t hide the violence, so you get punches to the face and to the body, with bloody spit, bruised bodies, and a horrendously swollen-shut eye. Also some language, including one use of the n-word; some kissing, implied nudity, and an implied sex scene; a character sick with a debilitating illness; some vomiting and bathroom humor.

‘Creed’ is as electric as it is invigorating. This latest addition to the ‘Rocky’ franchise brings together excellent performances, a comfortingly familiar storyline, and strong emotions into something really special.

By Roxana Hadadi

Michael B. Jordan is going to be a star, and “Creed” is going to get him there. This is a pump-your-fist-in-the-air movie, and if you thought “The Martian” was this year’s biggest crowd-pleaser, you need to see “Creed.” It will change your mind from the first scene and continue convincing you throughout the next two hours, until you’re caught up in the crackling electricity and sweeping emotions of it and there’s absolutely no turning back. None at all.

A little “Rocky” history: The six films starring Sylvester Stallone as the titular boxer traced his journey from Philadelphia nobody to devoted husband of love-of-his-life Adrian to best friend of one-time adversary Apollo Creed to widower restaurateur. There was, theoretically, not very much story left to tell after 2006’s “Rocky Balboa,” so “Creed” director Ryan Coogler and co-writer Aaron Covington took over screenwriting duties from Stallone and went at the narrative from another angle: that of Creed’s son Adonis, played by Michael B. Jordan, who starred in Coogler’s breakout film “Fruitvale Station.”

Ultimately, the “Creed” story is a variation on the “Rocky” story, but “Rocky” itself was a variation on a classic underdog story, so they’re both cut from the same cloth. These are films about men struggling to understand who they are and where they fit, determining how much of them is autonomous and how much is shaped by others, by the ones they love or the ones they lost. “Creed” and “Rocky” both understand the all-consuming need to be in control of one’s identity and to fully inhabit a name, and they take audiences on similarly gratifying and enveloping emotional journeys.

The film focuses on Adonis (Williams, of “Fantastic Four”), the boxing champion Apollo Creed’s son from an affair with a woman who wasn’t his wife; after years of bouncing around in foster care, Adonis is taken in by Creed’s wife, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), who is so proud when he ends up in a promising financial career. But Donny is actually boxing underground in Mexico, knocking out guys left and right, and following in his father’s footsteps in all the ways Mary Anne fears. She reaches her limit when Donny quits his job to fight full time, and he’s rejected by others, too, like the son of his father’s old coach, who has been making money off Apollo Creed’s name but thinks training his son would be disrespectful to the man’s memory.

“Your daddy died in the ring,” he tells Donny, but the younger Creed isn’t fazed. Instead, he moves to Philadelphia, where he tracks down Rocky Balboa (Stallone, of “The Expendables 3”), whom he immediately nicknames “Unc,” and asks for training and advice. The bond that develops between them – Donny, trying to figure out the Creed name and what it means to him, and Rocky, a widower with a distant son and few emotional connections in his life – is about the boxing, of course, but about family, too, about loyalty and trust. “It makes me feel alive,” Donny says of fighting, and that’s something Rocky can understand, too – maybe too well.

Creed is Williams’s movie, and he is phenomenal. The physical transformation is insane, but he’s so much more than just a body; he has the smile and the grit needed to make all aspects of Donny’s personality, from charming to determined, believable and respectable. Stallone hasn’t been this good in years; it’s difficult to understand how the man from those goofy “Expendables” movies is also this endearingly sympathetic and winningly deadpan actor. And everyone else is great, too, especially Rashad as Mary Anne, no-nonsense with a son she clearly considers her own, and Tessa Thompson (of “Selma”) as Bianca, Donny’s love interest who understands pursuing your passion even if it hurts you. There are barely any weak links.

In fact, there is this scene in “Creed” toward the end that demonstrates most climactically how this installment recreates “Rocky” for a new generation, and you’ll know it when you see it. It’s declarative, unapologetic, and motivated like no other film in theaters this year. It is unforgettable, and the rest of the movie is, too. No denying it: “Creed” is one of the year’s best.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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