11/19/09

Ladies Night Presents: Over The Top (1987)

Over the Top (1987) Director: Menahem Golan. Writers: Story- Gary Conway, David Engenbach. Screenplay- Stirling Silliphant, Sylvester Stallone. Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert Loggia, David Mendenhall.

Lincoln Hawk is a long haul truck driver and professional arm wrestler. He has been trying to raise enough money to take care of his wife and son. He has not seen his family since his son was a baby. His wife is now in the hospital, near death from an illness. She asked Lincoln to pick up their son, Mike (Mendenhall), from military school, drive him across country, and bring him home. She hopes the journey will give them a chance to get to know each other. The boy’s grandfather, Jason Cutler (Loggia), will do any thing to keep Lincoln out of his life. Hawk will have to arm wrestle his hands off in the big match if he want to keep his son.



Tidbits

In 1988, child star David Mendenhall won 2 Razzie Awards for his performance in Over The Top. One for Worst New Star, and One for Worst Supporting Actor.

Sylvester Stallone was nominated for a Razzie the same year, but lost out to Bill Cosby for Leonard Part 6 (hey, it’s better then Ghost Dad). As of 2004 Stallone was the all time Razzie Award master. In 1990, he won a Razzie for Worst Actor of the Decade, and one for worst Actor of the Century in 2004.

The film did win a real award as well. It received an ASCAP for the song“Meet Me Halfway”. I'm sure Miss Directed has more to say about that tune later.

In 1986, LewCo released a toy line featuring movie characters from Over The Top, as well as actual arm wrestlers. Kids could stage their very own bad assed arm wrestling match.


Over The Top is a feel-good film that delivers truck driving, arm wrestling and more montages than one can shake an upbeat 80’s song at. When this one was brought up for Ladies Night, I was excited by the title and the plot, but I didn't have high expectations. Sadly, my intuition was right on about this one.

With a name like Over The Top, I expected thing to be more, well, over the top. As it turns out, this refers to an arm wrestling move. It’s the big finish. Yes, the movie did make me laugh, but not as loudly or as often as I had hoped. Don’t get me wrong, the arm wrestling matches were fantastic! However, some of the scenes in between the matches were almost unbearable. The father son bonding seemed creepy and unnatural. I thought I was watching a NAMBLA commercial. This was funny also, but a bad joke can’t save a film.

The one redeeming factor for me was Robert Loggia. I like typing his name, Robert Loggia. The best actor in the movie was Robert Loggia. He was very believable as the rich, demanding family patriarch who might have mob connections. But, isn’t he always good in this role? The scenes with Robert Loggia were by far the most enjoyable.Unfortunately, this does make Stallone and Mendenhall seem even worse. Robert Loggia.

I can’t say that I recommend this movie to anybody. I have seen worse, hell, I’ve loved worse movies then this, but I just can’t get behind Over The Top. I enjoyed the overall experience of watching this Stallone disaster with Miss Directed, but it wasn’t because of the quality of the film. I suppose if one is an unyielding Sly fan, or an arm wrestling buff, go for it. If not, keep going.

Semi-Rating


Anyone who has ever put pen to paper knows sometimes the hardest thing to write is the title. Nothing is more frustrating than writing something good, and trying to boil it down to one phrase. It’s like sitting down to the SAT’s, knowing you aced it, and forgetting to put your name on it. This is how so many young writers end up with so many works entitled “Untitled“. Sterling Siliphant ,co-writer of Over the Top, has never been burdened with this issues. In a career that runs the gambit from Circle of Iron to In the Heat of the Night, he makes titles look easy. In the pantheon of his easily named scripts, Over the Top must have seemed like a paid vacation. What else would you have called this movie?

From the opening few moments you were already deep into big trucks, crazy eyed arm wrestling, and a dying mom so you don’t forget that this movie is deep. I mean seriously, a rich military school kid who’s Grandad is freakin’ Robert Loggia, damn that’s dramatic. In one of the big climatic scenes, and 18 wheeler breaks down a gate, barrels across Robert Loggia’s lawn, and takes out no less than four Grecian statues. Nope, this one could not have been called Over the Side or From the Back (though the latter might be debatable). If this film was anything, it was Over the Top.

While a lot of credit for living up to the title has to go to Stallone for his crazy eyes, you’ve got to give it up for David Mendenhall as Michael, the kid that pits Robert Loggia and Sly against each other. Mendenhall clearly never met an inflection he didn’t like, and he looks eerily like Demi Moore. Which disturbed me, a lot. Now, it’s easy to talk about how the acting or action lives up to the moniker, but there’s one other piece of the puzzle. Like “Highway to the Danger Zone” means Top Gun, “Meet Me Halfway” should be synonymous with Over the Top. That means it's time for us to talk a little Loggins.

I’m about to make a case that Kenny Loggins is the Bob Dylan of soundtrack songwriters. Now before my friends reserve me a rubber room, I’m not saying that he is Bob Dylan. After all, “Danny’s Song” will never be accused of being the anthem for a generation. Kenny Loggins was one of the singer-songwriters who created the adult contemporary format, and I’m sure that’s not helping my case. Being stuck on an elevator that’s rockin’ some Loggins makes me long for the good old days of Muzak, when it was all xylophones. The older I get the more I‘m intrigued by artists who delve into their field with a degree of passion, but also address it as a craft.

They showed Kenny Caddyshack, and the world gets “I’m All right”. He penned “Footloose” a song that went beyond a movie theme, and became the soundtrack for a year. Now imagine being Kenny Loggins and getting the Over the Top phone call. The easy thing to do is say “No”; after all, you’ve got money. That’s not very Kenny Loggins though. If you want a song to inspire an uplifting fight against authority, then he’s your man. “Meet Me Halfway” is as big and inspiring as it need to be for this film. That means it’s a ball-to-the-wall power ballad. Cheesy. Yes. Effective. Yes, for this film, definitely. It’s not a great song, but it does have great potential when coupled with a montage.

The heartbreaking thing about Over the Top is that a great screenwriter and a solid actor got together with some experienced people and made a terrible, terrible movie. The redeeming portions of Over the Top just don’t add up to a whole film. The idea is a hard one for me to go with in the first place. I don’t see many arm wrestling truck drivers, and I’ve been in Waffle House at 3 A.M. plenty enough times. I just don’t meet enough tuckers with the “guns” so to speak. Even if I go along with it, the story is just not that interesting. Poor little rich kid themes drive me to distraction in the best of movies. There’s just not one character in this movie that I can identify with in the slightest.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a fun, bad movie. It’s one of the best at being bad. All these talented people took the title to heart, and they took all the care and time they needed to live up to it. Over the Top is more than a devastating power move designed to defeat any arm-wrestler. It’s as pure, as on the nose a title as description for a film you could ever want. This is not one of the films that gives good-bad films a bad name. Instead, it gives it a very specific name indeed. Hope you enjoyed our review of Over the Top. If you did, that is very Loggins of you.

Semi Rating


5 comments:

  1. Y'all didn't Stallone's arms??? Surely this alone warrants another semi added to the rating.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This movie, and Sammy Hagar's 'Winner Takes It All' song, and the big tournament montage near the finale... it all gets me totally jacked up every time and I have to slap myself in the face several times just to calm down.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You ever see that SNL skit where Stallone is trying to help Norm McDonald out of a car crash and all Norm can do is knock Stallone's movies? He has this line where he goes, "Did you ever see Kramer vs. Kramer? Good movie, but you know what it was missing? Competitive arm wrestling." Good stuff, should probably get around to watching this infamous piece of filmmaking one of these days. Keep on keepin' on, man. Good post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Since the ladies have remained silent on their Over the Top review, I want to thank you folks for the comments.

    @Gore gore Girl- I can't speak for Fran Goria, but Miss Directed's taste runs more toward tall geeky blonde dudes. At least I hope they do! So I don't know how much sway Sly's guns would have with her. As for me, I would have gave this one a three (and the guns would only makeup .25 of a Semi rating there)

    @J. Astro- Nice Face Slapping. I happen to know that Fran Goria is an expert at slapping people when they get hysterical so never watch this film near her unless you're into that kind of thing. Then by all means.

    @Aiden R.- I don't think I've ever seen that skit before, I'll have to look it up. Meanwhile, you need to get yourself a copy of Over the Top. The one I picked up was like 3 bucks and also contains the classic Stallone cheese that is Demolition Man. How do you use the seashells!?!

    ReplyDelete
  5. You are out of your damn mind if dont like this movie. For the time period it was awsome. You gotta realize this was made in the 80's when all film was experimental. Theres solid conflict, a hero, a villian, culture. If yoy dont like this movie your not American

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...