It's a fairly good time to be what we once referred to as "the elderly." They're still some of our most recognizable and influential celebrities: Paul McCartney in music, Clint Eastwood in the movies, Barbara Walters on television, all of them over 70, if not 80. Whatever the young man's game, you're likely to find some old men and women still playing it.
One exception: sports. Therein lies the comedic premise of "Grudge Match," in which two retirement-age boxers step back into the ring. What's more, the movie's two charismatic stars are famous for playing boxers: Robert De Niro, 70, won an Oscar as the volatile middleweight Jake LaMotta in 1980's "Raging Bull," while Sylvester Stallone, 67, remains inseparable from his role as the fictional Rocky Balboa over six films (a seventh is reportedly on the way).
"Grudge Match," directed by Peter Segal ("Get Smart"), frequently nods to the actors' past roles. Stallone plays Henry "Razor" Sharp, a Pittsburgh fighter with a cantankerous old trainer (Alan Arkin). De Niro plays Billy "The Kid" McDonnen, now the paunchy owner of the Knockout restaurant. Years ago, Razor canceled their much-hyped matchup and retired -- something to do with a woman named Sally (Kim Basinger) -- but 30 years later, a squirrelly promoter, Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), wants them to finally face off in a bout called "Grudgement Day."
These are cute ideas, but after cracking a couple of Ben-Gay and Life Alert jokes, "Grudge Match" wanders into dramatic territory from which it never returns. Razor rekindles his soggy romance with Sally while McDonnen re-connects with his surly son, B.J. (Jon Bernthal), but these mechanical subplots (the script is by Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman) can't make us care about the characters. It's never clear who's fighting for what or why, and when the main event arrives, we've stopped caring.
That final bout, in which two grandparent-age men hit each other, can be a somewhat ghastly thing to watch. By that point, however, "Grudge Match" has wasted its two talented stars so badly that it almost counts as elder abuse.
PLOT Two lifelong boxing rivals, now in their 60s, get back in the ring.
RATING PG-13 (language, violence)
CAST Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Kim Basinger
BOTTOM LINE Putting Rocky and the Raging Bull in one movie is a cute idea, but the weak punch lines and flat-footed performances will make you throw in the towel.