Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mary Holland, Betsy Sodaro, Eugene Cordero, Olivia Stambouliah, Dot-Marie Jones, Dawn Luebbe, Ron Funches, Aparna Nancherla, Ahmed Bharoocha, Kate Flannery, Veronique Parker, Ashley Mandanas, Lauren Knutti, Dana Weddle
Written by: Ann Marie Allison, Jenna Milly
Directed by: Maureen Bharoocha
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 91
Date: 04/30/2021

Golden Arm (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Wrist Opportunity

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's not as funny as it hopes to be, but the crude humor never crosses a line, and the lovable, cheerful characters and the positive, girl-power vibe make this arm-wrestling comedy a mild amusement.

Melanie (Mary Holland) runs a struggling bakery for unappreciative customers. Meanwhile, her best friend, tough lady trucker and competitive arm wrestler Danny (Betsy Sodaro) injures her hand in a bout with the cheating Brenda (Olivia Stambouliah). When Melanie's oven breaks down again, Danny invites her on a road trip, with the hidden intention of entering Melanie in the Women's Arm Wrestling Championship, and hopefully win the big cash prize.

They meet Danny's pal Big Sexy (Dot-Marie Jones) for some training, and then it's off to the competition. A romance with a referee, Greg (Eugene Cordero), complicates matters, but Melanie finds she does have a natural gift, a "golden arm," for the sport. Regardless, she must still face the menacing Brenda.

As Golden Arm begins, it can be a little off-putting, as Danny's character comes on strong with a screechy, roughneck voice (performer Sodaro frequently works voicing animation), and the whole arm-wrestling world seems both absurd and terrifying. The gentle Melanie provides a doorway into the world, however, and it's not long before it all seems rather interesting, and even empowering.

Better still, as the movie finds its groove, it even manages to elicit a couple of chuckles here and there. Truthfully, Golden Arm is a tad formulaic — the wild and crazy best friend tries to break the timid friend out of her shell, "training" montages, etc. — but it never feels locked down by this formula.

Melanie gets to explore her dark side, and Danny has wants and needs of her own outside Melanie's happiness. The movie is so sunny in spirit that the supposed outrageous behavior starts to feel merely silly, and even comfortable like an old, ratty bathrobe.

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