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Peter O'Toole and Sylvester Stallone.

You may not think they have much in common, but this week they do. Sylvester Stallone returns to the ring as an over the hill boxer in the movie “Rocky Balboa,” and Peter O'Toole finds one last love as an over the hill actor in “Venus.” Bob Mondello says the films offer two lively takes on aging.

(Soundbite of film, “Rocky Balboa”)

Unidentified Man #1: To beat this guy, you need speed. You don't have it, and you got arthritis in your neck, and you've got calcium deposits on most of your joints. So what we'll be calling on is good, old fashioned blunt force trauma. Let's start building some hurting bombs.

(Soundbite of “Rocky” theme)

BOB MONDELLO: I know, I know, you're thinking, oh please, not Rocky again. I was thinking that too, and a desiccated, wizened old Peter O'Toole isn't really what I was looking to see at Christmastime, either. But in their dotage, these two old pros turn out to be surprisingly surprising.

I mean, you expect that in “Rocky Balboa,” Sylvester Stallone will start out beaten down physically. That's what that tongue in cheek, training montage is all about. But he's also demoralized, a has-been who has retold his same old same old story so often that everyone he tells it to knows the punchline, as it were. And in that, Rocky's not unlike the 60-year-old actor who plays him, trying to keep up with younger stars, knowing he's become a kind of punchline himself.

(Soundbite of film, “Rocky Balboa”)

Mr. SYLVESTER STALLONE (Actor): (As Rocky Balboa): Do I really care about standing toe to toe with all that stuff, or like my kid says, is it just like ego? What, am I like this old pug who's just trying to replace old pain with new pain? I don't know. I don't know.

MONDELLO: This sad eyed, mumbling mug, by which I mean both Rocky and Stallone, can still be endearing when he's down, much as we forget that when he's puffed up. And the same old same old story he's telling can be, too, when outfitted, as it is here, with a couple of new wrinkles for the aging baby boomer in all of us.

As for Peter O'Toole, he's crammed a lot of living into his 74 years, and these days, he looks it, so much so that in “Venus,” when you see him on a hospital gurney in an operating room early on, you'll be as worried as the folks gathered around him.

(Soundbite of film, “Venus”)

Unidentified Man #2: Goodbye.

Unidentified Woman #1: Goodbye, dad.

Unidentified Man #3: And cut.

MONDELLO: O'Toole's playing Maurice, a one distinguished actor who now mostly gets cast as a corpse on TV. He's still pretty spry though, particularly when it comes to the ladies. They no longer look at him, but when one of his ancient actor buddies is visited by a 19-year-old niece who just sits around his apartment like a lump, Maurice definitely has an eye for her.

(Soundbite of film, “Venus”)

Mr. PETER O'TOOLE (Actor): (As Maurice) What are you doing? In London, I mean.

Unidentified Woman #2: Looking for word.

Mr. O'TOOLE: What sort of work?

Unidentified Woman #2: Work.

Mr. O'TOOLE: Any particular kind?

Unidentified Woman #2: (Unintelligible).

Mr. O'TOOLE: Oh, there can't be much call for that.

Unidentified Woman #2: Call for what?

Mr. O'TOOLE: Yodeling.

Unidentified Woman #2: Not Yodeling, (unintelligible), modeling. You know.

Mr. O'TOOLE: Do you have a fallback position?

Unidentified Woman #2: No, I don't need one.

Mr. O'TOOLE: Right.

Unidentified Woman #2: Are you saying I do?

MONDELLO: Maurice gets her a job as a nude model for an art class he's hoping to audit, let's say, which is not quite what she had in mind. His attentions appall her, actually, but when his health starts to flag, she finds ways to give him a little of what he wants.

O'Toole is pretty marvelous in “Venus,” raunchy and charming in about equal measure, and he's surrounded by the sort of actors that the Brits have the good sense not to throw on the trash heap when they get on in years - Leslie Phillips from the old “Carry On” comedies, portly Richard Griffiths and Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice's ex-wife.

Her presence reminds you not just of the physical beauty that she and O'Toole had when they were young, but also of the reason that they stood out from the rest of the young cinematic beauties.

Mr. O'TOOLE: (As Maurice) I did love you for a time, and for the rest of the time, I was fond of you.

Ms. VANESSA REDGRAVE (Actress): (As Valerie) Please no.

Mr. O'TOOLE: More than fond of you.

Ms. REDGRAVE: No, don't. You don't have to.

Mr. O'TOOLE: It's my goodbye to you.

Ms. REDGRAVE: Why, where are you going?

MONDELLO: That laugh, her dawning realization that he's talking about mortality, gorgeous, just gorgeous.

(Soundbite of film, “Venus”)

Mr. O'TOOLE: We won't live forever.

Ms. REDGRAVE: No.

MONDELLO: No, which is reason to catch them now.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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