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Over the Top (1987)

March 2, 2011

VERDICT:
1/10 Power Hats

You know something’s gone terribly wrong when Stallone’s acting is the best thing you’ve got going.

Over the Top is about an arm-wrestling, all-American trucker who discovers that his estranged wife is on the way out and that her dying wish is for him to get to know their estranged son who he left behind years ago for a life on the road. So he picks up his kid from military school, the kid is none too pleased with the situation, but since he ain’t got any other options, he saddles up in shotgun and starts bonding with his pops on a week-long hauling gig to the World Arm Wrestling Championships in Vegas. All the while, the kid’s grandpappy who fucking hates his son-in-law with the fury of ten suns is pulling out all the stops to get his grandson back, and that shit just ain’t gonna jive with Stallone.

You know, at the right angle and with enough salt thrown in, I actually think there was some potential in here for a halfway decent movie. If it had been a Rocky knockoff with arm wrestling instead of boxing or just a straight-up story about a trucker getting to know his son, there’s a chance this could have been something. At least the former would be a shameless excuse to watch dudes grunt themselves into a sweat coma for 90 minutes and the latter might even pull a few heartstrings with the right child actor on board, but combine the two and throw in some of the worst power ballads of the ’80s that no one’s ever heard, and you’ve got yourself one perfect storm there, brotha’.

I mean, come on, what was it about those two concepts together that sounded like a hit to Stallone? After all, the dude co-wrote the screenplay and knew exactly what he was signing himself up for, but who am I to judge? You can bet I’d never have the balls to go up to Stallone and risk getting my face crushed just to say, “Pardon me, Sly, but what would you say to giving this script another once-over?” All the same, the two premises quickly cancel out any trace of credibility this movie had any chance of gaining, and as much as this movie tries (and it tries really, really hard), pretty much everything fails miserably.

Then again, even though his lines are all garbage, Stallone’s actually alright as our guy Lincoln Hawk (talk about your all-time patriotic names). For a guy who’s more than fit to play roles that require him to kill fools wholesale, it’s weird that he’s always best when he downplays it like in First Blood or Cop Land. And that’s what he does here, the level-headed, calm demeanor works extra well since everyone else is overacting like gangbusters, and I really wish he did that more often. Also love that no one in this movie, including Lincoln, knows whether his last name is Hawk or Hawks. Every other time his last name comes up it’s one or the other and, naturally, this is never explained.

But unfortunately, everyone else blows. Hard.

Robert Loggia plays Lincoln’s father-in-law, a role which requires him to show up every ten minutes, be pissed off and start up another rant about what a fuckup Lincoln is. That’s it. Brilliant stuff. And easily nabbing the Razzies for Worst New Star and Worst Supporting Actor in ’87 is David Mendenhall as Lincoln’s son, Michael. Folks, this kid is bad, he’s right up there with Jake Lloyd. Within the first five minutes of meeting this whiny bitch, it’s no wonder that Lincoln ditched his ass when he was still in diapers and it’s more thanks to him than the shitty writing that any chance this movie had at creating human emotion is completely ruined. I wish I had more to say, but it’s dumbfounding how awful he is and words cannot do the performance justice.

And then there’s the arm wrestling, and, amazingly enough, it’s arguably the worst part.

It’s those insano faces they make that go so overboard in trying to look tough that they just end up looking like lumberjacks doing Nic Cage impressions, it’s the fact that one of the guys Hawk(s) goes up against tries to sike him out being eating the lit cigar in his mouth, it’s Randy Raney’s outrageously bi-curious custom wife beater that completely defeats the purpose of wearing a shirt in the first place even if it is the best way to maximize nipple exposure. Look, if you fast forwarded to the last half-hour of this and closed your eyes the whole time, you’d think you were listening to a chorus of grown men trying to poop out cannonballs with thousands of fans cheering ’em on. And even with your eyes pried open like Alex DeLarge, you might just wish you were watching the cannonball thing instead. The whole thing is so lame, it’s so anticlimactic, and it all adds up to one big punchline that only gets sweeter with each new inevitable victory.

And just you wait for those arm wrestler interviews once the competition gets narrowed down to the final eight. From Hawk(s) talking about how his backwards hat is an overdrive switch, to his arch enemy dropping mad knowledge like, “Being number one is everything. There is no second place. Second sucks.” Just an amazing insight into the world of arm wrestling. Who knew there was so much more to the “sport” than doing five million curls and seeing who can flex the hardest without busting an O-ring.

I don’t know if anyone remembers it, but there was an SNL skit from the mid-’90s where Norm MacDonald gets in a car crash, Sylvester Stallone of all people comes to his aid, and so instead of thanking him, Norm takes the opportunity to sarcastically trash Stallone’s entire career until he kicks the bucket. In short, it was awesome and it was also the same episode that had Stallone’s “Orange Julius” skit, but in regards to this gem of a movie, Norm said it best:

“Whoa, hey! Hey, remember that movie Kramer vs. Kramer? Yeah, that was about child custody, too. Yeah, but it wasn’t that good. I don’t know, it was missing something, you know? Ah, what was it missing? I can’t.. oh, wait! I know! ARM WRESTLING!”

Classic.

Over the Top definitely has its fair share of unintentionally funny moments, but it’s not enough to warrant a recommendation to anyone. Not even the best of Stallone performances could salvage this epically idiotic premise and I couldn’t blame my good buddy Fred for repeatedly stating, “I cannot believe that this is how you’re spending your day,” every time he walked by the TV. So if you ever want to see a movie that makes arm wrestling look even remotely badass, bypass this entirely and go check out the remake of The Fly. Now that’s some fuckin’ arm wrestling!

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Ryan permalink
    March 2, 2011 9:54 am

    You’re crazy. This movie is awesome. I think you must be too stupid to understand all its complexities and nuances.

    • March 7, 2011 1:53 pm

      Hahaha. Something tells me I’d be getting into a losing argument with this one. One point for Ryan.

  2. HermioneO permalink
    March 2, 2011 12:25 pm

    I had forgotten the experience of watching this film. You bastard.

  3. March 2, 2011 3:06 pm

    Man, you took a bullet for us all with this. There’s no what I’d even consider watching this!

  4. March 2, 2011 4:53 pm

    Oh Stallone …

    • March 7, 2011 1:59 pm

      I know, man. At least he’s actually pretty decent in front of the camera.

  5. March 9, 2011 12:44 am

    I can’t believe A) that this came out in 1987 – I swear, it has 1984 or thereabouts written all over it, and B) that I haven’t yet seen it and C) that I haven’t even seen that AWESOME poster. It just might be the greatest poster ever made and reason enough to warrant this film’s existence. I’ve seen the other one (the main one?) but not that work of art. I want to hang it over my toilet so I can see it every time I take a piss.

    “they just end up looking like lumberjacks doing Nic Cage impressions”

    Winner for line of the review.

    I don’t know if this was your intention, but you’ve really, really made me want to watch this. 😀

    • March 9, 2011 1:49 pm

      Hahaha. Yeah, that poster is a rip, man. That arm…so sweaty, so veiny, so wildly disproportionate to everything else around it.

      But I won’t knock you for watching it, it is pretty damn unintentionally funny.

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