grudge-match-posterIt’s good to do things you don’t enjoy every now and then, and going to see a bad movie is no exception. A bad movie is the sliver of ginger you get with sushi. It cleanses the cinematic palate. It readjusts the benchmark so that good movies, movies without James Franco, can be enjoyed to their fullest. But sometimes, the bad movie doesn’t have the sense to keep its end of the bargain.

Grudge Match is one such example. On paper, it looks like someone watched Rocky and Raging Bull back-to-back and wondered who would win in such a match-up if the two were to fight today. Inside that person’s head is where the idea should’ve stayed. Instead, it got into the hands of director Peter Segal, who must have photos in a safe somewhere because people keep on letting him make movies, and he somehow convinced Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro to sign up, and would you believe it, the idea has made it to the screen.

De Niro plays Billy “The Kid” McDonnen. Stallone is Henry “Razor” Sharp. I was Gavin “Not Holding Out Much Hope” Broom. The two boxers had something of a rivalry 30 years ago. The Kid destroyed Razor in their first match-up. Razor got his revenge in bout two, although everyone knew The Kid wasn’t fit. And then right before fight three, Razor retired for reasons unknown. This stalemate sits uncomfortably in The Kid’s craw for three decades until the two are inadvertently reunited when they turn up in dotted suits at the same studio to record animation for an Xbox boxing game and get into an actual fight while their computerized avatars try to keep up. Cutting an already long story short, circumstances contrive to allow the rematch to take place with both pugilists in their sixties. With a curmudgeonly Alan Arkin turning up to train Razor, it’s The Kid’s estranged son BJ, so-called because they need to use it in a batch of obvious gags at later points, who reunites with dad to put him through his paces and rebuild their relationship. Throw in Kevin Hart as the fast-talking promoter and Kim Basinger as Razor’s lost love and BJ’s mom and there you have all the set-up you need for a 90 minute sporting comedy. Segal, in his wisdom, stretches it out to two hours.

The fact of the matter is, though, that in places it is actually pretty funny. Admittedly, it takes a while to get to its fighting weight, but when it does I was pleasantly surprised at the chemistry between Stallone and De Niro and I laughed out loud several times, especially when Arkin was on the screen being offensive to people.

Although it has its moments — the best of which comes during the credits with a couple of cameos that will make your jaw drop — there’s no getting away from the fact that, as sure as Rocky III follows Rocky II, it’s desperately predictable, it’s too long, it has an annoyingly cute kid with too many lines, and while both leads genuinely look like they’re having fun, De Niro is operating at 70% and Stallone … well, Stallone can act. He really can. But when he’s asked to sell a big ticket moment in a movie, he’s not that reliable, even in a boxing movie where one would imagine him being at his most comfortable. Give him some mumbly asides, give him some natural dialogue and he’s pretty good, but that speech just before the montage simply doesn’t work. Perhaps most damning of all is the fight that the whole movie is working towards is as dull as actual boxing.

So while it’s not bad enough to be true sushi ginger, it’s not remotely good enough to be wasabi. It’s somewhere in between and I’m afraid I don’t know enough about Japanese cuisine to know what that is.

Advertisements