If I had rippling muscles
And a huge right arm to lend,
I’d enter contests proving
What a beast I am at moving
Other people’s arms at angles
That they were not meant to bend.
I suppose my strength would let me
Find more meaningful success,
But when limbs become this hefty,
Whether right-handed or lefty,
There are few things quite as tempting
As to prove one’s manliness.
MPAA rating: PG
Many of Sylvester Stallone’s films are designed to reinforce his manliness, the kind of machismo that automatically raises the ambient testosterone level. If there’s any doubt about who the toughest guy in the room is, just wait, and he’ll prove his muscular superiority.
That’s the kind of movie I assumed Over the Top would be based on the fact that it’s about an armwrestling competition, and that’s what it is, but not all it is. It’s also, surprisingly, a family film, in contrast to Stallone’s many R-rated actioners. He plays Lincoln Hawk (now that’s a cool ‘80s name if I ever heard one), a trucker who attempts to bond with his estranged son Michael (David Mendenhall) via a road trip, much to the chagrin of the boy’s rich, Hawk-hating grandfather Jason Cutler (Robert Loggia). As Michael’s chilly treatment of his absentee father melts in the wake of cross-country bonding, we get to see Stallone show off his armwrestling expertise. Can he use that underdog prowess to earn back his son from the intrusive grandfather? Can he defeat all the trash-talking he-men at the World Armwrestling Championship? Can he? Can he?!
You probably know the answer so, yes, Over the Top is entirely predictable, but it still manages to be enjoyably so. The first half especially engenders the same tough-guy sympathy that Stallone had in Rocky, as he tries to break down Michael’s walls and prove he’s more than the irresponsible Neanderthal Cutler considers him, with some stunning western scenery to back their father-son journey. The latter half is more typical sports stuff, with Hawk’s future, fatherhood, and everything else depending on his strong right arm. As he trains hard and progresses through the championship with accompanying encouragement and theme music, it’s hard not to feel like you’re watching an obvious variant of Rocky and The Karate Kid, but it’s still aggressively macho fun. I just didn’t understand how winning the championship would legally get Hawk’s son back or why Cutler was intent on stopping him, when I thought Hawk had already signed over his parental rights.
Even if the details are left vague, Over the Top is decent fun backed by rousing rock songs, and it’s not nearly as bad as its reputation as a bomb would indicate. By the way, the title refers to conquering the middle arm position during an armwrestling match, though I suppose it also applies to the bravado of the championship itself. Over the Top may not stand out next to most of its ‘80s brethren, but it’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood for macho.
Best line: (Hawk) “The world meets nobody halfway. When you want something, you gotta take it.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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