Written by: Adam Vaughn | January 18th, 2021
Stallone: Frank That Is (Derek Wayne Johnson, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
I humbly admit, as an individual who was not physically alive for the events portrayed in Stallone: Frank That Is, that I feel as if the realizations brought to light by director Derek Wayne Johnson’s newest documentary may not have the same impact on me as a viewer who lived through the 1960s and ‘70s. Still, Stallone: Frank That Is weaves an interesting story, full of celebrity interviews, interesting b-roll of an under-the-radar entertainer, and a decent start-to-finish sequence of events. Johnson (John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs) gives just enough emotional value to the content to give a “hidden superstar” like Frank Stallone the justice he deserves.
The film traces Stallone from an early age, depicting his passion to become a singer and musician, and highlights major opportunities and successes he achieved while working alongside his renowned brother, Sylvester Stallone. It shows the impact on Frank’s career when the first Rocky film premiered in 1976, and how Frank would not only dive into the world of Hollywood entertainment, but also succumb to living in “Sly” Stallone’s shadow as “Rocky’s brother.” Inevitably, Stallone: Frank That Is showcases its subject’s various musical, cinematic and lifetime achievements, and the reputation he had amongst the Hollywood community, particularly those who knew him well.
While the film does a tremendous job of painting Frank Stallone’s life from past to present, Johnson doesn’t necessarily take his documentary in any direction that is surprising or intriguing enough to make it anything other than a typical biopic. A film that is primarily intended to be centered around Frank Stallone often bounces between the two Stallone brothers, and often becomes just as much about Sylvester as Frank. The film’s length gives just enough time to delve into major chronological moments of Frank’s journey, yet comes to a bit of a stationary pace once the premiere of Rockycomes into the timeline, taking up a good half of the film that would otherwise be used to talk more about Frank. This does not, however, disallow Johnson from showing the viewer key moments of Frank Stallone, the singer, and there is as much new information to be discovered as there are nostalgic moments in film history to be admired.
Overall, at a runtime of just over an hour, Stallone: Frank That Is accomplishes what it sets out to do, giving Frank Stallone an in-depth close-up, and brings to light many of Stallone’s cameos and his award-winning music that would otherwise very possibly be lost to today’s generation. At moments it touches upon key undertones of Hollywood in the 1970s, and many of the obstacles Frank overcame that are unique to his journey. Ultimately though, there just isn’t enough to make this film a top-notch, game-changing work of documentary cinema.