While inevitably not quite as fresh as “Creed,” “Creed II” — directed this time around by Steven Caple Jr. — nonetheless gets the job done nicely. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
It’s always fun to decry a formulaic movie — except when the formula actually works. This is true for “Creed II,” the latest likable installment in the never-ending “Rocky” saga,” which first entered the ring in 1976. Following up on Ryan Coogler’s rousing 2015 reboot of the franchise, “Creed,” this one features young boxer Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) taking on the son of the Russian boxer (Dolph Lundgren) who killed his father Apollo in a long-ago match. Will Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), who Adonis endearingly calls “Unc,” conquer his own demons and agree to train him? Will Creed and his musician girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson) get their relationship figured out? Will “Gonna Fly Now” appear on the soundtrack, exactly when you think it will? Oh, like you don’t know the answer already.
While inevitably not quite as fresh as “Creed,” “Creed II” — directed this time around by Steven Caple Jr. — nonetheless gets the job done nicely. Jordan, who’s having quite a year (if you haven’t seen him in “Black Panther,” rectify that immediately), is effortlessly charismatic even when sitting around looking pensive in a tight black tank top. (For the record, he does spend a great deal of his screen time doing this, but it’s not a bad look.) Stallone charmingly wanders through the action mumbling his philosopher-king lines (“What good is a light that don’t light?”) as if he just made them up, which quite possibly he did. There’s plenty of in-your-face boxing action, coupled with an endearing emphasis on family and legacy (for both the Creeds and the Balboas) … and yes, when “Gonna Fly Now” started playing, damned if I wasn’t all in.
“Turn off your brain, and let your heart do da talking,” advised Rocky, and he was right. This franchise just might go on forever, and my heart kind of hopes that it does.
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★★★ “Creed II,” with Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu. Directed by Steven Caple Jr., from a screenplay by Juel Taylor and Stallone. 128 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sports action violence, language and a scene of sensuality. Opens Nov. 21 at multiple theaters.