Film Review: Over the Top

This tagline for 1987’s Over the Top isn’t even true? Stallone’s character doesn’t know that his son ditched his grandpa and is coming to Las Vegas to see him arm wrestle, and even aside from that, Stallone explicitly said he’s arm wrestling to win a new truck. I suppose you could say with the long-term goal of getting the son back from the grandpa, but that seems like a stretch!

It’s only fitting that 1987’s Over the Top would be my 10th Sylvester Stallone film this month because while it’s … over the top … it’s the perfect distillation of what made Stallone … Stallone in the 1980s: cheesy 1980s power ballads (a lot of those), musical montages (the one at the end of the movie feels like something right out of any of the Rocky films), underdog meekness (Stallone speaks so quiet in this one), pep talks, lots of sentimental, sappy love, glistening muscles. It’s all here in this one! It’s like Rocky but with arm wrestling. That’s essentially what the film, co-written by Stallone, as many of his films are, is about. Stallone, playing Lincoln Hawk, is a long-haul truck driver who tries to win back his alienated son while becoming a champion arm wrestler (synopsis courtesy of Wikipedia).

But we have to talk about how his son, Michael (played by David Mendenhall), is the real villain of the film, not his psycho grandpa, Cutler (played by Robert Loggia), who I’m still wondering why he’s so rich and acts like a mafia boss. Michael is a rich, spoiled brat and jerk, and about half the first half of the film is Lincoln chasing after Michael because Michael’s crying and blaming Lincoln for everything. Yes, yes, it’s Cutler’s fault that Michael is like that due to raising him as a rich, spoiled brat, but even after spending time with Lincoln, he ditches him in jail to go back with the grandpa! Boo.

Bull should have been disqualified for bloodying Lincoln’s nose. Also, it made no sense with how obnoxious and aggressive Bull was that after Lincoln won, he was like, “Oh, okay, well.”

Also, we have to talk about the major loophole at the end! So, at the Las Vegas world arm wrestling tournament, the announcer, almost annoyingly, reiterates time and again that the tournament is double elimination, i.e., to be eliminated, you have to lose twice. In addition, they repeat numerous times that Bull Hurley (played by Rick Zumwalt) hasn’t been defeated in five years. Yet, when Lincoln faces Bull in the finals, he only beats Bull once! Unless they are saying he lost one other time off camera in the course of the tournament and the five-year undefeated streak means the overall tournament? It seems like a major plot hole to me, though!

This is one of those Stallone films I freaking loved as a kid, but it doesn’t quite hold up as much compared to in my memory. Aside from the aforementioned reasons (Michael is way more annoying to me now, and I never noticed the plot hole until now), the movie is also just not that interesting? We don’t get the arm wrestling until the very end (minus a quick bar one), and the rest is just chasing Michael, basically. That said, the arm wrestling hits all my inner macho man spots, and if you don’t want to go arm wrestle someone after watching the film, you’re dead inside. I’m currently arm wrestling my Bugs Bunny stuffed animal (just kidding, I don’t have it anymore sadly, and besides, Bugs would win).

Still, despite that, again, because it’s such a perfect distillation of a Stallone movie, if I wanted to show an alien a Stallone movie so they can understand what the Stallone “thing” was all about, I might just show them Over the Top even before Rocky or Rambo.

Look at that Stallone face!

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