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New York Times:
The screenplay of Rocky is purest Hollywood make-believe of the 1930's, but there would be nothing wrong with that, had the film been executed with any verve.
In addition to a heart-warming script, Stallone has created on the screen a character of enormous appeal and charm - half-articulate but funny, gruff but good-hearted.
The basic storyline has been done to death over the years; this is still one of the most effective and successful applications of the formula.
A description of it would sound like a cliche from beginning to end. But Rocky isn't about a story, it's about a hero. And it's inhabited with supreme confidence by a star.
The story is achingly familiar, and though Stallone has a certain power, he is certainly not the subtlest actor to crawl out from under Marlon's overcoat.
Rocky is an old-fashioned fairytale brilliantly revamped to chime in with the depressed mood of the '70s.
There are occasional flashes that the film may be patronizing the lower end of the blue-collar mentality, as much if not more than the characters who keep putting Rocky down on the screen. However, Avildsen is noted for creating such ambiguities.