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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Over the Top is a 1987 movie in which Sylvester Stallone plays a truck driver trying to make amends with his estranged son while also trying to redeem himself by winning an arm-wrestling tournament. The music, montages, and hair alone make this movie more '80s than the '80s were, and for all its cheese, it still manages to be entertaining. There is violence: fistfights, car chases, and, of course, lots and lots of arm wrestling. A boy is bullied, but the whole situation arises because his father asks the bullies to arm-wrestle the boy; the bullies proceed to call him names like "wimp" and "girl" before the boy finds it within himself to out-arm-wrestle the bullies. There is also some profanity, including "s--t" and "a--hole." Product logos are rampant, especially at the end for the big arm-wrestling championship.
What's the story?
In OVER THE TOP, Lincoln Hawk (Sylvester Stallone) is a truck driver who shows up after many years away to take custody of his son, Michael, on the day he graduates from a military academy. Michael resents Hawk's sudden return into his life and believes everything bad his grandfather (Robert Loggia) ever said about him. Hawk does everything he can to try to earn the boy's trust, while teaching him values such as determination and perseverance through a sport in which Hawk is considered to be a champion: arm-wrestling. Meanwhile, Michael's grandfather does everything he can to reclaim custody of his grandson, and when Michael's mother passes away, the grandfather offers Hawk a large sum of money on the condition that he never sees Michael again. But things start to change when Hawk enters the International Arm-Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas. Michael realizes that his father had tried to maintain contact all along but never received any of his letters; when he learns this, he must escape his grandfather's mansion, find a way to get to Las Vegas, and cheer on Hawk so he can win the grand prize and start up his own trucking company.
Is it any good?
With the Kenny Loggins songs backing up the montages, the fashion, and the hairstyles, this movie is as entertaining as it is cheesy. Everything about Over the Top is ludicrous, but for children of the '80s and even children of the children of the '80s, there's an undeniable charm in the absurdity. They simply don't make movies this good/bad anymore.
Perhaps the biggest absurdity to this movie -- and what makes it enjoyable or not enjoyable according to one's tastes -- is that it's centered on the sport of arm-wrestling. Unlike most sports, where there is considerable body movement and a variety of strategies and moves employed, arm-wrestling is relatively limited to, well, wrestling arms. Not that the filmmakers don't do their best to make it exciting by using every film trick in the book, but there's only so much to be done compared to, say, boxing. Nonetheless, for entertainment for its own sake, Over the Top is great fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about action movies centered on a sport. What are the similarities and differences between Over the Top and movies centered on say, boxing, or baseball?
How was violence encouraged as a way to solve problems? Overall, did the violence in the movie seem pertinent to the story, or was it put in for the sake of entertainment?
Did the conflicts in the story seem believable or relatable? Why, or why not?
- In theaters: February 13, 1987
- On DVD or streaming: September 8, 2009
- Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Robert Loggia, Susan Blakely
- Director: Menahem Golan
- Studio: Cannon Films
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
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