[Join your host, John Holliday, in the review column "A Movie A Week" as he shares his spoiler-free thoughts on our collection of DVD / Blu-ray titles.]
Chuck Norris had 'Sidekicks', Schwarzenegger had 'Last Action Hero', and Stallone started it all with his quintessential arm wrestling movie, Over the Top. It seems that at one point or another, every great 80's action star had to have a movie where they played the mentor for a young boy, much like they were in real life to every testosterone-filled teenager for two decades. Sly's attempt at this family friendly movie obviously isn't near as great as 'Rocky' or even 'Rocky V' but it has it's demographic.
The first ⅔ of Over the Top focuses on the melodrama that unfortunately bogs it down for most viewers so we have to synopsize it. But we only review movies that we recommend so there has to a redeeming quality and that's where the other ⅓ (the actual arm wrestling part) comes into play. Before all that though, Hawk (Sylvester Stallone) is just a long haul semi-truck driver that's lost touch with his son. The story opens as the rugged father arrives at his son Michael's refined military academy to pick him up for a bonding road trip. This is being done at the request of his ill mother whom Hawk has remained in contact with despite the wealthy grandfather's wishes. The boy is reluctant at first but gives Hawk a chance and soon begins to learn valuable life lessons along the truck stops. Ten years of patchwork are seeing progress until Michael is suddenly kidnapped.
Michael's grandfather has sent his men to retrieve the boy from Hawk bringing the first sign of legal troubles. The sudden death of Michael's mother further complicates things which leads to Hawk being paid off to leave the state and his son behind for good. Hawk's beat up truck is his only posession and isn't enough to afford him a legal battle against the super rich grandfather. He must now "fight for his son the only way he knows how" by entering the World Arm Wrestling Championships and going for the top prize, $100,000 and a $250,000 semi.
Once we get into the arm wrestling, it's a pretty good movie. There isn't much suspense or surprise though, especially when the officials continuously announce that it is a double-elimination tournament guaranteeing that Hawk will lose at least one match. The violence is pretty minimal and I wish there had been more variations to the fights. Maybe someone's arm being broken or a signature move more significant than "over the top" (which is a dramatic adjusting of the position of the fingers). It just feels like the story is an excuse to showcase arm wrestling which would be fine if the plot didn't account for the majority of the runtime.
While not as great as other Stallone starring titles, it accomplishes what it came to do. It is intended to be a family movie while still providing masculine action. It's easy to see how a father / son duo could have fond memories of watching this movie together but I think most who appreciate it are boys who grew up in the 80's and caught it on one of it's many repeat TV airings. That's why I give Over the Top:
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