Remember Over The Top? In that 1987 film, Sylvester Stallone fights to get his son back through the noble sport of arm wrestling. So, is Maureen Bharoocha’s Golden Arm the female-centric Over The Top? Sorta, but not really.
Danny (Betsy Sodaro) is a truck driver by day and a competitive arm wrestler by night. She’s a fierce competitor but foiled by her rival, Brenda (Olivia Stambouliah), who has been taking out her competition to better her chances at the upcoming national championships. Danny decides they need a ringer to come in and dispense some justice. In fact, they need the most unlikely of ringers.
Melanie (Mary Holland) is a childhood friend of Danny. She runs a struggling bakery and has just finalized her divorce. Needing to repair her bakery’s ovens, Danny convinces Melanie to earn some extra money by helping with an upcoming haul in her truck. But that’s only a ruse! Danny is actually recruiting Melanie to arm wrestle. Despite Melanie’s small, skinny frame, she is a badass arm wrestler. Surprise!
“Despite Melanie’s small, skinny frame, she is a badass arm wrestler.”
You can probably guess what happens next. Danny has to convince the mousy Melanie to compete, train her, and win the championship. Of course, this journey will strengthen the bonds of their friendship and give Melanie the confidence to come out of her introverted shell. There’s also the typical love interest, Greg (Eugene Cordero), and a series of comedy cameos including Dot-Marie Jones as the trainer, Kate Flannery as the nasty first competitor, Ron Funches is the person running the arm-wrestling event, and Dawn Luebbe as Brenda’s conflicted sidekick.
Golden Arm, like many comedies, straddles the line of recommendation. There’s nothing profoundly brilliant about the story or comedy that makes it must-see viewing. Its humor is based on the idea of not judging a book by its cover as Melanie is the small girl that happens to be the best arm wrestler. Its comedic tone is comprised of light silliness with very few laugh-out-loud moments.
That said, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the film either. It’s shot well and directed. While the plot is predictable, there are very few problems with it overall. The laughs may not be big, but happily, there are no groaners in the bunch.
What tips the film on the side of a recommendation are the leads Mary Holland and Betsy Sodaro. They make an excellent comedic team with chemistry that I would liken to the odd pairing of Chico Marx and Stan Laurel — weird, but it works. Liking Golden Arm is a matter of taste. I think a good number will appreciate and like it. Others will say it’s too silly and not their brand of humor. Both would be right.
Golden Arm was scheduled to screen at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.
"…they make an excellent comedic team..."