Wednesday, December 30, 2015
I've been a huge fan of both Amy Poehler and Tina Fey since they were first on Saturday Night Live. My love for them has only grown as they went on to their own respective sitcoms on NBC, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation. While their first cinematic collaboration, Baby Mama didn't quite work for me, this second outing more that makes up for it with the very funny Sisters.
Maura Ellis (played by Amy Poehler) is notified by her parents (played by James Brolin and Dianne Wiest) that they are selling their house and need her and her sister Kate (played by Tina Fey) to come and clean out their rooms so the house can be sold. Begrudgingly, the two sisters return home, unhappy to see their childhood home being sold off. With the rest of the house packed up and just their room left to go through, the two girls have the place to themselves as they start going through a lifetime of items, including their old journals. With a wave of nostalgia, Kate proposes that they have one last blowout party to celebrate. Maura agrees on the condition that for once Kate remains sober so that Maura can "let her freak flag fly." Kate begrudgingly agrees and the two set out to throw the Party to end all parties in their childhood home. What starts off as a rather tame gathering continues to escalate until becoming an all out rager that will likely rival some of cinema's all time rager party movies.
There was a lot to enjoy in Sisters and much of it has to do with the two characters played by Poehler and Fey. Maura is a recently divorced woman who is trying to move on with her life but is perhaps not certain how to do it. Kate on the other hand is in a state of arrested development, irresponsible and frequently unemployed and homeless, crashing on a friend's pull out couch. Her daughter is frequently missing, staying with friends and trying to avoid her mother. She has the trickier character her, playing someone who could be completely unlikable in the wrong hands, but Fey manages to pull it off, creating a character that you genuinely want to see get their act together. Plus, it's fun to see Fey play against type as the bad girl of sorts. Maura on the other hand has lived a much more sheltered and well-behaved life and always did what she felt she was supposed to. Much of the joy of the film is seeing her finally cut loose and start living a little.
Overall, I thought Sisters was an amusing and funny comedy and one that wasn't overwhelmed with raunchy humor as so many comedies are these days, which was a refreshing change. At the center of it we have two strong performances from two of the funniest ladies working today proving once again what a dynamite comedy duo they are. It's nothing groundbreaking, but fans of Fey and Poehler will have a good time with it.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
It's kind of surprising how much of Home Alone 2 works despite more or less shamelessly rehashing the original film and just swapping out the location. Hell, it even has a better cast. Of course, I also have to laugh at the title because, when you think about it, this time nobody's home.
It's one year later and the McCallister family is once again getting ready to travel during the holidays. This time they are headed to Miami and Kevin (played by Macaulay Culkin) is less than thrilled at the prospect of spending Christmas in a tropical climate and I have to agree. Fully aware of what happened the year prior, Kevin's mother Kate (played by Catherine O'Hara) makes sure Kevin doesn't get left behind this time. Things go south when Kevin gets separated from his family as they run to their gate. Kevin winds up following a stranger onto the wrong flight and winds up in New York while his family lands in Miami. However, Kevin finds himself surprisingly resourceful, managing to get a cab into the city and securing a reservation at the Plaza Hotel using his father's credit card (complete with a gratuitous cameo from then owner and current Presidential "candidate" Donald Trump). The ruse works for the most part, except for the suspicions of the hotel concierge Mr. Hector (played by Tim Curry). From there, Kevin tours the city, makes a stop at a large toy store, runs into a scary bird lady in Central Park (played by Brenda Fricker), who of course later turns out to not be so scary and eventually crosses paths with the newly escaped Harry (played Joe Pesci) and Marv (played by Daniel Stern). In a moment of ill-advised monologuing, the two professional gluttons for punishment divulge to young Kevin their intentions to rob the toy store at midnight on Christmas Eve. Kevin knows the owner of the store, Mr. Duncan (played by Eddie Bracken) was planning to donate all the proceeds for the day to the local Children's Hospital. Deciding it's up to him to stop the two nitwit crooks, Kevin breaks into his Uncle Rob's under renovation Brownstone and sets up another series of elaborate traps to teach these two another much needed Christmas lesson.
Home Alone 2 is a pretty lazy sequel for the most part, shamelessly rehashing the original film from beginning to end, but everything is just bigger. Which makes sense since they clearly had more money this time around. But yet, I don't hate it. Maybe its just the nostalgia talking, but I still laughed all the way through this film. It's the little things that work for me. Eddie Bracken as the kindly toy store owner, Brenda Fricker as the bird lady in Central Park and the friendship that develops between her and Kevin. The comedic MVP for me though is Tim Curry. He takes his relatively small role and plays up every moment with gusto. In particular there is a moment towards the end where he is being rather condescending towards Kate and her desire to go out in the city to look for Kevin and she just slaps him across the face. He then immediately changes his tune, telling her to bundle up and then proceeds to look like he's about to cry. It cracks me up every time I watch it. And then there is Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. They gave big performances in the first film because they were sure no one would see it. Here, they let loose even more because they both know they are basically in a live action cartoon. Especially Daniel Stern, who gives a very funny performance as Marv. I even feel sympathy for poor Marv, because after this film's set of traps, he should have died ten times over. The traps are certainly much more severe this time around too, with electrocutions, crushing head blows, fire and explosions come left, right and center. Granted, these two guys by all means have it coming, but there is a level of cruelty this time around that is a little disturbing to my now adult sensibilities.
Overall, revisiting Home Alone 2 has become all too clear one of those more of the same Hollywood sequels. It's no mystery why 95% of the cast and crew bailed after this entry and I hate to break it to you faithful readers but this is where I stop too. I have seen parts of Home Alone 3 and it is excruciating to watch. Nor do I have any desire to watch the two TV movie sequels either because I'm sure they are even worse. Nope, two is plenty for me. The two from my youth that I can rewatch and enjoy with my rose tinted nostalgia glasses and that is just fine with me.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
It's hard to believe it's been 25 years since Home Alone came out. Sure, I saw it in the theater as a kid, as did any other kid at the time. But to be reminded of that fact as a now 34 year old man is a bit staggering and only serves to remind me of how old I really am. So, naturally, I look back on the film with a certain degree of nostalgia. But at the same time I have some mixed feelings about the film. On one hand it is a very entertaining, funny, and heartwarming film. But at the same time it also wrecked the career of John Hughes. After this film came out and was a monster hit, that was all Hollywood wanted from the guy. More slapstick and pratfalls, leaving behind the more thoughtful and heartfelt films he had made prior to it in his career.
The plot of the film is well known by now. Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left home alone when his large family, as well as another horde of relatives, have to leave home in a hurry to travel to Paris for Christmas vacation. When his mother, Kate (played by Catherine O'Hara), realizes her mistake, she struggles to get home to her son. Meanwhile, Kevin has to deal with living on his own and taking care of himself for the first time in his life. He does a remarkably good job of it, even taking on chores such as shopping or laundry. But he also finds joys in things he was previously denied such as enjoying junk food, watching R-rated movies and staying up late to watch The Tonight Show. Things take a turn when he discovers his home is being targeted by two bumbling burglers, Harry (played by Joe Pesci) and Marv (played by Daniel Stern). Determined to protect his house from the intruders, he sets up several elaborate booby traps to try and fend them off in a climactic showdown between Kevin and the two robbers.
I used to have whole sections of this movie memorized. I absolutely loved it as a kid, as did most kids my age. There is so much wish fulfillment in this movie for young kids, it's crazy. We all wanted to ride a toboggan down the steps and out the front door or zip line from the roof to our tree house (if we had a tree house, which I didn't growing up. But my brother and I did try to ride the sled down the steps but the front door wasn't positioned right, much to our disappointment). And what kid wouldn't love to throw two crooks through the trials and tribulations of some rather clever (and rather cruel) booby traps that pummel, burn and maim the two gluttons for punishment, all played for the laugh and delight of the audience? I'll admit I was still laughing this time around, if wincing in pain as well. I suppose life experience would add a layer or two to these scenes from when I was a kid.
Macaulay Culkin gave a star making performance in the film and was quite adorable and endearing, even if he did mug for the camera a bit much in the film. In fact, the entire film was inspired by a scene in a prior film Culkin made with John Hughes, Uncle Buck. In that film, there is a scene where Culkin is left home alone with his sister and repeatedly question's Buck's girlfriend, who was sent to babysit, through the mail slot before letting her in. It's a fantastic scene and easy to see the genesis of this film in that moment.
This film also, for better or worse, established the directing career of Chris Columbus. He had been a screenwriter prior and made his directing debut with Adventures of Babysitting, but this was his first big hit. John Hughes wrote the script while also producing the film as well. Prior to this, he was best known for surprisingly heartfelt and thoughtful teen films such as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, as well as adult fare such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles and She's Having a Baby. After this film that all changed as his films shifted more towards set-ups for physical comedy, mainly of the pain inflicting slapstick sort, continuing on with two sequels to this film that he wrote, as well as his rendition of Dennis the Menace and it's lowest point being Baby's Day Out, where in which the tyke inflicting all the pain is an infant. To see someone who made so many great films lower himself to such a point is frankly depressing.
Still, there is a lot of nostalgia in Home Alone for me. It has a lot of heart to it as well as all the pratfalls and slapstick that dominated the later entries and at the center of it is a rather endearing performance by Macaulay Culkin, as well as an equally great one by Catherine O'Hara as his mom desperately trying to get home to her son. It has rightfully gone on to become a holiday favorite and rightly so. Even so, 25 years later, I still can't believe he didn't take even one bite of that macaroni and cheese dinner before he ran off to fight the burglars.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
The first new Star Wars movie with the original cast in 32 years has finally arrived, along with a host of wonderful new characters to add to the mix. There is a lot of nostalgia in seeing Han Solo and Chewie flying the Millennium Falcon again. Seeing Leia, now a General, commanding the Resistance. Hearing the iconic Star Wars themes once again. All of it was perfect Star Wars nirvana for the entire running time of two hours and sixteen minutes. As a service to my fellow Star Wars fans, I will try to abstain from any big spoilers. If you want to go in completely fresh as I did and know absolutely nothing, I'll meet you back here after the movie.
Time has passed since Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) has disappeared and the stories about the events of the original trilogy have become the stuff of legend. Rising from the ashes of the Empire is a new group of baddies called The First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (played by Andy Serkis) and his second in command, the temperamental dark side Jedi Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver). Kylo Ren is searching for a map that reveals the location of Luke Skywalker. Also looking for it is the Resistance's top pilot Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Issac). Poe is able to retrieve it first, but Kylo Ren is not far behind. Poe stashes the map in his droid, the adorable BB-8, before being captured by Ren. Meanwhile, one of the storm troopers accompanying Ren, Finn (played by John Boyega), is on his first mission and horrified by the actions of The First Order. He helps Poe escape and in the process of trying to head back to retrieve BB-8, they wind up crashing and are separated on a desert planet. It is there that Finn crosses paths with local scavenger Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) and the droid she recently discovered, BB-8. With the Order in hot pursuit, the two of them escape in a ship they steal which turns out to be none other than the Millennium Falcon. After getting away from their pursuers, Rey and Finn are picked up by a freighter ship piloted by none other than Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (played by Peter Mayhew). Thrilled to once again have his ship back, Han and Chewie join up with Rey and Finn to take the map and BB-8 back to the resistance and General Leia (played by Carrie Fisher).
From it's opening moments, The Force Awakens recaptures the spirit of the original trilogy perfectly. I felt chills as the familiar blue text announcing "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." came on the screen, followed by the iconic theme music and opening scroll. From there unfolds everything I had hoped for in what the new Star Wars movie should be. The above plot summary is the very broad strokes. Within the film is a rich story filled with both our beloved characters such as Han, Leia, Chewie and Luke (although the latter takes his sweet time showing up. As the film went on, I kept thinking, Where the hell is Luke Skywalker?!). Also mixed in are several new characters which fit in quite well that I quickly found myself really liking. From Rey, the young scavenger who is starting to get her first taste of the Force who the future of the Jedis may lie with. Finn is quite an intriguing character as well and isn't something we have seen before: a Storm Trooper who rejects the Empire and joins the resistance. Poe was another cool addition as well and I'm excited with seeing where this goes with the next two films with all three new characters. On the other side of the force, we have a new baddie in Kylo Ren, who is determined to pick up where Vader left off, but may or may not be up to the task. Adam Driver does a great job portraying him and creating a conflicted character with a few surprises hidden in his backstory that I will not spoil here. And of course, Harrison, Carrie and Mark pick up their characters perfectly, but it's good to know the future of the series is in good hands.
In addition to directing the film, JJ Abrams also co-wrote the film with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt. It is nice to have Kasdan back, having worked on the original trilogy of films in addition to this one. Abrams and company go to great pains to create a film that matches up with the original trilogy as much as possible while also being it's own film and they pull it off wonderfully with a film that in every sense feels like a proper Star Wars film right down to the iconic John Williams score.
Overall, The Force Awakens is everything I hoped the new Star Wars film would be. It manages to effortlessly shake off the stench of the sub-par prequels to show what a true Star Wars film should be. This film hits the ground running and never lets up. It's fantastic entertainment and I imagine the fans of the series will be very, very pleased.
Monday, December 14, 2015
There's a rule in my house. Every so often I will find myself home at night, completely and utterly stumped at what I want to watch. Nothing really seems that appealing. This led to the development of a rule, When in doubt watch Clue. It hasn't let me down yet. It invariably leads to a one man quote-a-thon as I recite the movie back right along with it. I could watch this movie a hundred times and not get sick of it. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have. Now, in the month of December, the comedy gem is celebrating it's 30th anniversary yet it remains just as timeless and entertaining as ever. With an all star cast of comedy legends, it remains the funniest movie ever based on a board game.
In New England at the height of the McCarthy era, six strangers gather at an isolated house on a stormy night. They each received a letter inviting them to come and that they were each to be known by a pseudonym. The group includes Col. Mustard (played by Martin Mull), Mrs. White (played by Madeline Kahn), Miss Scarlett (played by Leslie Ann Warren), Professor Plum (played by Christopher Lloyd), Mrs. Peacock (played by Ellen Burstyn) and Mr. Green (played by Michael McKean). Overseeing the group is the house's butler, Wadsworth (played by Tim Curry), with assistance from the house's maid, Yvette (played by Colleen Camp). There is also a mystery host, Mr. Boddy (played by Lee Ving). After dinner it is revealed that each guest there is being blackmailed and that the mystery guest, Mr. Boddy is their blackmailer. Wadsworth reveals he has locked all the doors and refuses to unlock them until the matter is resolved. Things take an unexpected turn when Mr. Boddy gives a package to each of the other guests, which are revealed to be the iconic Clue weapons: a revolver, a candlestick, a lead pipe, rope, a dagger, and a wrench. He states the only way to resolve the matter is for one of the guests to kill Wadsworth and shuts off the lights to the room. The plan backfires and Mr. Boddy is the one who winds up dead. Each guest claims they didn't do it, which leads to a madcap search for answers as they try to figure out who did it, where and with what weapon.
Even today, the idea of making a movie out of a board game seems rather crazy. But, if you were going to do it, making one out of Clue would be the one I would choose. Making it a comedy was a novel touch while getting some the best comedic talents of all time to star in it made it even better. Jonathan Lynn directed the movie and wrote the screenplay as well, from a story he developed with John Landis. The result is easily one of the wittiest and most quotable movies I have ever seen. The dialogue, in true farce fashion, comes fast and furious, so much so it's near impossible to catch everything the first time around. The entire cast brings their A-game to the material, which isn't hard since the script is so much fun. The two stand outs for me though are Madeline Kahn, who brings such a coolness to Mrs. White, who has been widowed at least twice, pretty much steals the show whether she is explaining the fates of her first two husbands or explaining the rage she felt towards another individual. The other stand out is Tim Curry, who for the bulk of the movie acts as a sort of ringleader for this six person circus of mayhem, until we get to the end where in which he reveals the solution to the mystery. This kicks off a marathon of a monologue as he takes the rest of the cast through the night's events in breakneck fashion. It's a brilliant moment of comedic acting and it still blows me away to this day.
The film's design captures the famous setup of the board game, with all the familiar rooms present and accounted for down to the parquet floor design resembling the squares of the board game. It also has the nonsensical secret passageways that make no structural sense in context of the rest of the house. Of course, this is all part of the charm of the film and it's commentary on the nonsense of both the whodunit and farce genres. In no way is this more evident than in the film's multiple endings. When originally released theatrically, the film had one of three endings, a gimmick designed to entice audience members to see the film multiple times. Instead, it turned them off and no one went, resulting in the film bombing at the box office. When released on home video, all three endings play one right after the other, with a simple title card breaking up the separate endings. This format plays much better with audiences and may have been more successful if it had been released this way theatrically. Anyway, to make a long story short (too late!), the multiple endings show just how interchangeable the solution to any given whodunit could be. There always multiple suspects with valid motives and anyone of them could have done it. The fact that this can easily be swapped out for another pokes fun at this trope of the genre. There is even a running gag throughout the endings with one character saying one thing still didn't make sense with another replying, "One thing?!"
Clue has gained a second life over the last thirty years, becoming a cult classic almost on the same level as another Tim Curry film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and has been embraced by the same audience with shadow casts giving Clue the same treatment. There have also been midnight screening quote-a-thons where the audience is encouraged to quote the movie along with it. The film has long been a favorite of mine since I was a kid and is certainly one that rewards rewatching. For a mystery, that is quite an accomplishment. But then again, as the film makes it perfectly clear, the ending is inconsequential. All the fun is in getting there. Although, to be fair the endings are pretty funny too.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
The idea of a Christmas set horror film is by no means a new idea. From the likes of Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Gremlins, Santa's Slay and the "All Through the House" segment of Tales from the Crypt (as well as the episode from the TV series of the same name), there is enough holiday themed horror to sate the thirst of even the most hardened gore hound. So, to see the makers of Trick 'R Treat take a spin at some festive scares with the legend of Krampus, I can only say bring it on.
Max (played by Emjay Anthony) is having a rough Christmas. There is a growing distance between his parents Tom and Sarah (played by Adam Scott and Toni Collette). His house has been invaded by his obnoxious Aunt and Uncle Linda and Howard (played by Alison Tolman and David Koechner), their Aunt Dorothy (played by Conchata Ferrell), and assorted cousins. When his cousins find his letter to Santa and read it aloud at the dinner table, Max is humiliated. He snatches it back and runs off. In a fit of rage, he tears up the letter and tosses it out the window, shocked to see the pieces fly up into the sky rather than fall to the ground. Just then a blizzard rolls in and shortly after the power to the entire town is knocked out. Only Tom's German speaking mother, Omi (played by Krista Stadler), knows what is going on: Krampus is coming. She instructs her family to keep the fire in the fireplace hot as the family hunkers down, waiting for the storm to break.
It's not long before Krampus and his minions show up. And these minions are not the cute and adorable yellow ones. They are demented forms of a Jack in the Box, Teddy Bear, Christmas Angel and Gingerbread men (the latter of which are both strangely adorable and terrifying). Luckily, Uncle Howard is packing heat and the guns come out as the family tries to fend off the monsters until they can come up with a plan to get to safety. In the meantime, this fractured and dysfunctional family starts to rebuild their ties in the midst of the supernatural crisis.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by Krampus. While it doesn't reinvent the wheel, I kept wondering how it was all going to turn out, especially as the family members started getting picked off, including the kids, which surprised me. As we got towards the end I started to see where it was going, but for a long stretch it did keep me wondering. The film also has a sharp sense of humor running through it which helped ease some of the tension. The film was well directed by Michael Dougherty, who created a great sense of atmosphere of a holiday wonderland slowly dismantled by festive ghouls. The film takes a sharp stab at a consumer driven Christmas from the opening scene at a local department store filled with shoppers run amok for the latest sale. The stop motion animated flashback as the grandmother relates the tale of Krampus to her family was a nice touch too, a throwback to those old holiday specials by way of Tim Burton.
The film is well cast, with Adam Scott leading the group as the typical suburban Dad who impresses his far more redneck brother-in-law as he steps up to protect his family. Toni Collette manages to capture what most mothers must feel like during the holidays, stressed out and trying their best to make everything picture perfect. Alison Tolman does well as her sister and long suffering wife, trying her best to keep the peace between both sides of the family. Both women were great as they step up as well to protect their children.
Overall, Krampus fits nicely in with the holiday themed horror films of past. Will it ever be as well revered as say Black Christmas or Gremlins? It's hard to say but it does pack a wallop all of it's own with some unique creature design and some fantastic effects. At the same time, it has a wicked sense of humor and a certain playfulness to it that makes it hard to take it quite so seriously. And despite all the monsters and mayhem, deep down it is a genuine Christmas movie, playing out like a sort of demented It's a Wonderful Life as Krampus blows into town and helps this family rediscover what is really important. Besides, I just can't dislike a movie that has a character exclaim, "I just got my ass kicked by Christmas cookies!"
Thursday, December 10, 2015
I have a confession to make that I need to get off my chest. It's something that has been bugging me for a little while, ever since I re-watched all the Rocky movies and started revisiting some more Stallone films. What did I pick to follow the Rocky series? Why, of course the cinematic ode to the "sport" of Arm Wrestling Over the Top. Here's where the confession comes in, I actually love this movie. Yes, it's absolutely terrible but it falls squarely in the guilty pleasure category.
Lincoln Hawk (played by Sylvester Stallone) is a long haul trucker who has been seperated from his wife Christina (played by Susan Blakely) for the past ten years and subsequently has not seen his son, Michael (played by David Mendenhall) at all in that time. It's alluded that Christina didn't want him around during that time, but now that she is deathly ill with plot-contrivanceitis (the movie is annoyingly vague on her actual illness), she has changed her tune and decided Michael should get to know his father. So, she asks Lincoln to pick him up from Military School and have the two drive cross country in Lincoln's semi to see her before her surgery. The kid is understandably perplexed to see this strange man before him and be told that he is his father. He asks for some ID and Lincoln provides him with a wedding picture of him and Christine, which I'm pretty sure is not considered a legal form of ID in most states. Nonetheless, the two hit the road in Lincoln's semi truck, but almost immediately Michael demands Lincoln pull over, at which point Michael jumps out and runs across four lanes of traffic, nearly causing a huge pile up. However, Lincoln scoops him up and they are back on their way after he calms the kid down. I guess in 1987 a kid jumping out of a semi truck and booking it across traffic to get away from said truck was not a cause for concern as no one questions what is happening, nor does it appear the police are notified. Meanwhile, Michael's grandfather Jason Cutler (played by Robert Loggia) is bound and determined to keep Michael away from his father, who he considers to be a no-good loser.
As they make their way cross country, the ice between Lincoln and Michael begins to melt as the two begin to bond. Upon stopping at a truck stop, Lincoln is recognized and challenged to an arm wrestling match for some quick cash to Michael's surprise. He discovers that his dad earns extra money competing in arm wrestling matches and plans to enter the championships in Las Vegas. These sorts of events actually happen, by the way. I looked it up, proving once again that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Lincoln even begins to teach his son to hustle arm wrestling, encouraging him to challenge some local kids that look and act like stereotypical 80's bullies. They best Michael easily, but after some words of encouragement from Lincoln, he returns for a rematch and bests them easily, although improbably. They finally reach their destination and arrive at the hospital Christina is at where they discover to their horror that Christina passed away during surgery. Michael is understandably angry at his father, pointing out they could have made it in time if they didn't waste their time doing things like hanging out in truck stops and teaching him to hustle. To be fair, the kid has a point. Michael returns to live with his grandfather, who will not allow Lincoln to see his son. Determined to regain custody of Michael, Lincoln decides to bet it all on the Las Vegas Arm Wrestling tournament with a grand prize of $100,000 and a brand new long haul semi truck (how convenient!), which he intends to use to set up his own trucking business and build a life for him and Michael. Needless to say, the outcome is pretty obvious.
There is so much that is so gloriously wrong with Over the Top, it's hard to know where to start. The film is directed by the legendary schlock meister Menahem Golan, who co-owned the Cannon Film company that produced mainly B grade action movies, including much of Chuck Norris' films (it is also the subject of a fascinating documentary, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.) This was clearly intended to be his attempt at making a serious and heartwarming film because everything played so straight faced. There is supposed to be suspense and excitement during the arm wrestling matches but I can't help but bust out laughing watching it. Any attempts to make the act of arm wrestling seem epic or impressive fall flat as the actors grunt as sweat literally drips from their bodies, glistening under the lights of the arena. Who knew arm wrestling was so physically taxing? There are occasional moments that come across as endearingly cute between Lincoln and Michael, such as a moment when Lincoln teaches Michael how to drive the truck. The thing is the plot of the film, which was written by Oscar winner Stirling Silliphant and Oscar nominee Sylvester Stallone no less, is pretty tired and worn not to mention underwritten. For example, when Michael asks Lincoln why he left him and his mother, Lincoln just responds he had his reasons and it's left at that. The mother is killed off so quickly that we are robbed of any sort of reunion or dramatic moments between her and Lincoln that could shed some light on what happened or explain her sudden change of heart. There is also a rather blatant continuity error where everyone, including Lincoln himself, keep messing up his last name, alternating between Hawk and Hawks depending on the scene. You'd think they would have had that figured out before they started shooting. Then there is some laughably ridiculous plot points, although no more ridiculous then when Michael is going through his mother's things and finds ten years worth of letters Lincoln had sent that his mother kept from him. Overjoyed to find out his father always really loved him after all, he sneaks out of his grandfather's mansion and steals his grandfather's pick up truck. He proceeds to drive it near perfectly all the way to the airport (which he actually knows how to get to!), ditches the truck and manages to catch the next plane to Las Vegas. This kid is twelve. Never has a movie been so aptly titled.
But yet, despite all this silliness, I can't help but love it. Stallone was paid a then record 12 million dollars to star in the film and eventually gave in, deciding no one would see it. The fact that this film has a cult following almost thirty years later just goes to show how forever film really is. In all fairness, Stallone does his best to make it work and gives a suitably charming performance, especially for a character that in all likelihood we should absolutely despise for basically being a deadbeat father for ten years and the movie does little to prove that presumption wrong. But yet, for some reason I liked the guy and his scenes with David Mendenhall. The film is also scored with a wonderfully cheesy Giorgio Moroder soundtrack largely made up of rock songs performed by such notables as Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, and Asia. I can't help but love it and am not ashamed to say I do own the soundtrack. The songs do help the film, giving it a certain lighter tone than perhaps the film should have had.
Overall, Over the Top falls squarely in the so bad it's good guilty pleasure category. It's impossible to take seriously, no matter how much it wants you to. It doesn't reach the epic levels of badness as something like The Room, but it's pretty ridiculous in it's own right with staggeringly bad storytelling from a couple writers who really should know better and a director more concerned with style than substance not helping much either. It's a movie that under any other circumstances I should absolutely hate, but somehow it all gels together for me as a movie that is entertaining in ways that are impossible to achieve intentionally. It has it's own undeniable charms despite all of it's faults. So yes, with a pang of guilt and perhaps embarrassment, I freely admit I do indeed actually love this movie.