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MOVIE REVIEWS : FATHER-SON TIME: TWO VERSIONS : ‘Over the Top’

“Over the Top” (citywide) is the 12th Sylvester Stallone movie, and, over those years, the form has set like cement. However, this one, a very, very simple story climaxing in a Las Vegas arm-wrestling contest, must qualify as a worst-case scenario.

Theoretically, it’s a heart-tugger about a down-on-his-luck trucker and his snobbish, estranged 12-year-old son who learn to be great chums and teach one another about life. It has millionaire grandfathers and expiring mothers. And as written by Stirling Silliphant and Stallone and directed by Menahem Golan, it’s utterly bogus.

There isn’t an honest moment in all its 91 minutes, or a true performance. Stallone has even abandoned the gritty ethnicity of Rocky Balboa: This battler is Lincoln Hawk.

The young son, commercials star David Mendenhall, has additionally put in six years on a soap opera, enough to ruin Laurence Olivier. Mendenhall has all the exterior tricks down perfectly, and that’s what they remain.

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Hard to tell which is worse, the self-assured Stallone of the previous 11 films, or this Stallone, wide-eyed, a little shy, self-effacing. (Even the preview audience distrusted that incarnation. They were waiting, until very late in the movie, for their hero to step into combat; for glycerined sweat and super slo-mo, the sound of mastodons thudding against one another--for the patented Stallone sporting life.)

It’s all here, every vast, eye-popping enervating minute. (The movie’s PG rating is for considerable harsh language.)

By now there isn’t a scintilla of surprise to any of it, and arm wrestling as a sport isn’t really much fun to watch unless it’s the match in “The Fly.” The only diversion is keeping track of the shameless advertising plugs that dot the film, like toadstools after a rain. It’s not quite reason enough to go out to a movie, however.


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