The sequel to "Rocky" and the prequel to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" have more in common with each other than with the original films.
Both depend on celebrity interest in already popular characters, skipping such elements of drama as conflict and development, simply to give the fans another look. Typically, this fan-magazine peeking is at their domestic, rather than professional lives, and emphasizes their common humanity, not the uncommon heroics that made them interesting. And both films have the look of having been made with the kind of money that goes with comfortably anticipated success.
"Butch and Sundance: The Early Days" is a luxurious-looking film, with stunning Western scenery - rock formations, snow, an orchard in blossom, ochre hills. Love is lavished on a hat carried by the wind, or a horse in motion. Care was taken to find two young men, William Katt and Tom Berenger, who not only look like Robert Redford and Paul Newman, respectively, but who give creditable imitations of those actors doing the same parts.
But the job of giving the two outlaws some reason for reappearing as youths was overlooked. Wiliam Goldman, who wrote the first film, is credited in the production notes with "keeping a watchful eye" on this picture, but is is noted in passing that he refused to write it. Allan Burns, who did, came up with nothing more than an elaborate explanation of how they got their nicknames, an answer that mostly serves to remind you that you forgot to ask the question.
So the dialogue consists entirely of small talk. There is some charm to this, as it shows big bad outlaws being clever, stupid, friendly, petty, teasing, antagonistic, loving, loyal, suspicious and so on, rather than barking outlaw talk as we know it from the Western movie tradition. Butch Cassidy is portrayed, in an understated way, as a man who dearly loves his wife and children; the Sundance Kid, not having either, is shown as loving his friend's children.
If you had won a lunch with two famous baddies at a charity auction, say, the fun of finding out how ordinary they are might wear off as you realized you had paid for two hours of watching ordinariness.
But if they have nothing to say, the hero of "Rocky II" is, as you may recall from "Rocky" a champion of inarticulateness. When Rocky is shown loving his wife, it is by saying he hopes their expected chiled will be "Like you, like you, like you, like you," while Mrs. Rocky counters with her hope that he be "Like you, like you, like you, like you."
Unlike "Butch . . . Sundance," Rocky II" has the same star and writer as its predecessor, both of which jobs are filled by Sylvester Stallone. The actor survives this better than the writer because Rocky's good-hearted dumbness is an amusing act. The rest of the original cast is also back - Burgess Meredith clever and interesting as Rockyhs trainer; others, Thalia Shire, Burt Young and Carl Weathers, just checking in with quickie recaps of their characters' chief traits: shy, tough, belligerent.
But why is Rocky back after the excrutiating fight that he lost physically but won morally?
A rematch is scheduled in the film for reasons even slighter than the rematch the film represents. The whole thing is nothing but a denouement, answering the unasked question of what a person does after having proved himself. Rocky, who is barely literate, is pictured wanting to fight again because he is unable to hold a job, and also because it's "what I do." His opponent, who has a job as world heavyweight champion, has only the excuse of bearing a grudge from the last film.
What would keep them hanging around like that? To find out, we need a prequel, "Early Rocky Formation."