I remember being at the Belly Up Tavern once, watching actor Kevin Bacon and his band perform. His wife Kyra Sedgwick was dancing right in front of me, and at one point while looking at the other band members on stage, I remembered his brother Michael was in the group. He has a successful career in the music business scoring films, but that got me wondering about siblings with famous brothers. I was a kid when Jimmy Carter was President, but remember his brother Billy being a goof. He even had his own beer come out — Billy Beer (my stepdad kept a 6-pack in the garage, saying it would someday be a collector’s item; I currently see eBay has 24 unopened cans selling for $149, so..I would have preferred my dad save the Mickey Mantle baseball cards, but I digress).
Bill Clinton had a dopey brother, Roger, who got into jams, but this problem isn’t relegated to Presidents. It happens more easily to actors because really, anyone can become an actor. Of the last few movies I’ve watched to review, there’s Ben Affleck’s brother, Don Johnson/Melanie Griffith’s daughter, Denzel Washington’s son (in a movie written by Barry Levinson’s son), and a documentary on John Belushi, which features his brother, who didn’t have an ounce of the talent his brother had (and he has a net worth of $50 million).
So, with Sylvester Stallone worth half a billion dollars, what does his younger brother Frank (a net worth of $2 million) have to say about his career? Well, it was interesting to hear. It’s the type of documentary that’s right in my wheelhouse.
Some of the talking heads in this were to be expected — Sly, Schwarzenegger, as well as Talia Shire and Burt Young from Rocky. We also heard from actors Danny Aiello, Joe Mantegna, and two Billy’s — Zane and Dee Williams. It was wild to hear from hard rockers Duff McKagan (Guns ‘N Roses) and Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi). Hearing from Hall & Oates made a bit more sense, as both of those guys, at different times, were in Frank Stallone’s band! That’s like the opposite of the Pete Best thing. Being out of the band, and getting so much bigger than had you stayed.
The documentary does spend a bit too much time with all the praise, and sometimes coming up with excuses as to why Frank didn’t make it big (bad record company promotion, Hollywood BS for not nominating his songs from Staying Alive, etc). They don’t really cover any of the negatives (Frank has gotten into a few beefs while using Twitter). And while he feels it’s weird that he was playing at a cafe on the same bill as Bruce Springsteen, who became huge — well, there are probably lots of other bands he played with that are a lot less successful than he has been. Yet it doesn’t mean you don’t feel bad for him when he has some catchy songs, or shows promise on screen (I always liked him in the underrated Mickey Rourke/Faye Dunaway movie Barfly). And when he’s booked on talk shows, it’s to merely answer questions about his more famous brother.
And while I laughed when Norm MacDonald used to make fun of Frank on Saturday Night Live, and I made fun of him after his goofy tweets about how his brother should have won the Oscar over Mark Rylance (A stupid assessment. Stallone just played Rocky again, although he should have gotten a nomination for Cop Land; again, I digress).
I came away from this documentary liking him. The dude hustled hard, and he did accomplish a lot more than I realized. You always assumed he got to provide the songs for Staying Alive because Sylvester was directing it. Well, he kept pushing his brother who wasn’t going to use him. It was John Travolta who heard the songs and championed Frank, after the Bee Gees bailed on the project.
Even the story about how his little doo-wop song around the trashcan in Rocky (“Take Me Back”), was funny. His band initially refused to do it, because they had a gig at a bar paying $150 that night. Sly offered them airfare, and $150 — for each band member. That sealed the deal for them.
It made sense that Frank would stand in for Sly on some of the Rocky movies, but I never realized he played the singer in a club in Rocky III. But, nowadays, I’m good about looking at all the names in the closing credits for those types of things.
One of the weirder jobs in Hollywood he didn’t get — playing Sly’s brother in a film he auditioned for. At that point, his agency dropped him.
There were lots of non-Hollywood related stories that were blast. Frank changed his band name to Valentine, just because of a belt buckle he had that said that.
Another story involves Frank being shot in the hand by a gun shop owner. I don’t remember ever hearing about that before. I’ve always said that documentaries about subjects you know little about, are usually a lot more interesting. It’s one of the reasons I was a bit disappointed in the recent Belushi documentary. I knew most of those stories.
I’ve often said that most people would have interesting stories, if you picked interesting moments from their lives; and they do a great job doing that here.
We see Frank working with Harry Nilsson. We see him boxing Geraldo Rivera after some taunting by Howard Stern. A moment of getting the band back together.
Perhaps Frank lacks a bit of self-awareness, and with him producing this, it glorifies a lot.
Mostly, this documentary makes me yearn for a documentary on Clint Howard.
3 ½ stars out of 5.