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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Grudge Match

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone star in a scene from the movie "Grudge Match."
It's Rocky versus Raging Bull as Sylvester Stallone climbs into the ring with Robert De Niro for "Grudge Match" (Warner Bros.).

This comedy about retired boxing rivals working to get back into shape in preparation for their long-deferred final showdown amuses intermittently. But its theme of family reconciliation is undercut by the misuse of a child actor's age-appropriate innocence to forward some of the script's frequent sex jokes as well as by dialogue chockablock with foul vocabulary.

As an ESPN-style opening montage informs us, Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro) and Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) were the outstanding fighters of their Reagan-era heyday. Each managed to score a single victory over the other. But, on the eve of a scheduled tie-breaker, Razor inexplicably announced his retirement, leaving fans to speculate for decades over what might have been.

Fast forward to the present and a raucous confrontation between the two old enemies goes viral on the web, and puts dollar signs in the eyes of down-on-his-luck promoter Dante Slate (Kevin Hart). Though reluctant to have anything to do with The Kid, steelworker Razor, who squandered his fortune soon after retiring, needs the cash Dante is offering, while The Kid, a successful car dealer, is determined to prove he was the true champ.

So they get ready to rumble.

Besides their professional competition, Razor and The Kid have unresolved personal issues fueling their mutual antagonism: Back when they were first duking it out, The Kid had a one-night stand with Razor's true love Sally Rose (Kim Basinger) that resulted in the couple's breakup—and in the birth of Sally's now-grown son BJ (Jon Bernthal).

Despite Sally's warnings that The Kid is a louse, BJ wants to get to know his dad and wants his young son Trey (Camden Gray) to spend time with grandpa as well. So he agrees to put his own knowledge of the sweet science to work as The Kid's trainer.

Here Director Peter Segal and screenwriters Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman introduce a troubling aspect to the proceedings less predictable than the flow of vulgarity that prevails throughout.

Trey's ignorance of such matters as the obscene interpretation that can be put on his father's initials is played on extensively. And the boy is later made to intrude on the aftermath of a casual sexual liaison. His proximity to such talk and behavior is, needless to say, more unsettling than humorous. It lends an unsavory air to the picture as a whole.

The film contains mature themes, including promiscuity, pugilistic violence, an off-screen nonmarital encounter, much sexual humor, about a dozen uses of profanity, a single bleeped instance of the F-word and pervasive crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Th&eacute;r&egrave;se of Lisieux: "I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." These are the words of Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a Carmelite nun called the "Little Flower," who lived a cloistered life of obscurity in the convent of Lisieux, France. (In French-speaking areas, she is known as Thérèse of Lisieux.) And her preference for hidden sacrifice did indeed convert souls. Few saints of God are more popular than this young nun. Her autobiography, <i>The Story of a Soul</i>, is read and loved throughout the world. Thérèse Martin entered the convent at the age of 15 and died in 1897 at the age of 24. She was canonized in 1925, and two years later she and St. Francis Xavier were declared co-patrons of the missions. 
<p>Life in a Carmelite convent is indeed uneventful and consists mainly of prayer and hard domestic work. But Thérèse possessed that holy insight that redeems the time, however dull that time may be. She saw in quiet suffering redemptive suffering, suffering that was indeed her apostolate. Thérèse said she came to the Carmel convent "to save souls and pray for priests." And shortly before she died, she wrote: "I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth." </p><p>On October 19, 1997, Saint John Paul II proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church, the third woman to be so recognized, in light of her holiness and the influence on the Church of her teaching on spirituality. Her parents, Louis and Zélie were beatified in 2008.</p> American Catholic Blog How glorious, how holy and wonderful it is to have a Father in Heaven.

 
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