Take “The Champ” and combine it with “Rocky” and you have “Real Steel.”  And it’s real good.  Hugh Jackman plays an absentee father who is busy controlling large, robot boxers and making bets on them that he can’t make good on.   He is a selfish man who is always looking for a big score the easy way, but nothing works out for him until his 11-year-old son comes into his life when the child’s mother dies.  Of course, he doesn’t want to deal with having a kid, so he quickly signs over custody to his child’s aunt in exchange for $100,000.  There’s a catch: the aunt’s husband wants to go on a 2 month vacation in Italy and would rather not have the rugrat there, so Jackman takes his kid with him for the next two months under the pretense that he wants to spend time with the kid before finally letting him go.

Well, you probably guessed what happens next.  Slowly they bond during the time they have together, and of course there are the usual fights and arguments that help them get to know each other; but it is handled well and the characters are likeable — even the robot — and there were moments when I was sure the story was going to go a certain way but it didn’t, so those unexpected moments were a pleasure.  Watching Jackman and his son fix and train a robot boxer and have it go from junk to championship contender is very enjoyable, entertaining, and satisfying.  There are many feel good moments — and yes “Real Steel” follows the basic formula for this type of movie — and you can’t help yourself from rooting for Jackman’s robot.   We Americans love an underdog.

At the start of the movie, I noticed how beautiful the cinematography is.  We are treated to long, wide shots of the countryside as Jackman drives to a fair to fight his robot.  There are more great shots like these throughout the movie when father and son are driving to their next fight.  So, to the director and cinematographer, I send a special thank you for having done a great job in “Real Steel.”

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene where Jackman is talking about tossing away a robot he just bought called Noisy Boy.  Noisy Boy was damaged because Jackman wasn’t paying attention during the fight.  Jackman’s son wants to fix Noisy Boy; but Jackman is adamant about getting rid of the damaged robot and buying another robot.  Jackman’s son tells him that Jackman is the kind of person who throws away things when he doesn’t need them anymore.  Ouch.  We know exactly what the son is talking about.  And I agree with the kid in fixing things, as long as you are able to.

I never understood how some people could casually get rid of their things, like older, working cars to buy newer ones.   I understand the reasoning, but not the lack of emotion.   I’ve always had an emotional connection with all of my cars, including the first one I drove which belonged to my father (a red ’72 Chevy Nova two door fastback).  I regret my father selling her for just a few hundred dollars; and my role in arguing for it so he can concentrate on his new Corolla and not worry about fixing the old girl all the time.   I remember my first car, a 1985 Pontiac 6000 LE that my parents bought for me back in 1990.  I had to give her up because she was broken in so many places I could not afford to keep up with the maintenance; I decided to replace her with a new, 2000 Hyundai Elantra.  Now the Elantra is old, and people have told me I should just get rid of her; but instead I spent thousands of dollars to keep her on the road and now she runs fine.  She is my secondary car and as long as I don’t push her too hard she plays the role well.  I’m not giving her up without a fight.

I always wonder where the Nova and Pontiac are, if they are still somewhere on the road, with new owners who will take good care of them.  When you’ve been with a car for many years, it becomes part of your soul.  At least that’s how I’m built.


Me with my dad’s ’72 Chevy Nova in 1989

Me upset that some jackass ran into my 1985 Pontiac 6000 LE after being chased by the cops. This happened in the mid 1990s.

Me and my 2000 Hyundai Elantra GLS in 2011.