Forget about Stallone's wobbly performance in F.I.S.T. or his floundering direction of Paradise Alley. He was great in Rocky and is even better in Rocky II! In this one, he marries Adrian (Talia Shire) and uses the money from his fight with Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) to purchase a new home, car, and gifts for his friends. However, when a stint making commercials doesn't pan out and jobs become scarce, Rocky finds himself short of bread. His wife is pregnant and they both must work to make ends meet. Finally, after nearly dying giving birth to their son, Adrian reverses her decision against Rocky returning to the ring.
Apollo Creed has challenged him to a rematch and Rocky goes into intensive training with his manager (Burgess Meredith). The fight again provides a powerful and engaging climax to the film and we're back in the crowd rooting for Rocky to win.
What makes this sequel so endearing? Stallone's finely-tuned depiction of Rocky. He's generous, humble, and disciplined, a loving husband, a good friend, and a talented boxer. Up against the cardboard heroes of other films in this genre, he comes out a true champion.