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  Toughest Man in the World, The Stay Away From His Bins
Year: 1984
Director: Dick Lowry
Stars: Mr. T, Dennis Dugan, John P. Navin Jr, Peggy Pope, Lynne Moody, Joe Greco, Tom Milanovich, Wally Englehart, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Frank Rice, Tina DeLeone, Ron Dean, Brian Finn, Diane Dorsey, JoBe Cerny, Donnell Macklin, Jason Wild
Genre: Drama, Action, TV MovieBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Billy Green (John P. Navin Jr) is a teenage tearaway who is set to fall into a life of crime if he carries on the way he does, when he steals a radio from the local store and he and his friends flee the elderly owner who chases after them. When he confronts the boys, Billy pulls a knife on him until they realise someone is watching them: none other than the runner of the youth club, Bruise Brubaker (Mr. T), the toughest guy around. With no messing around, he disarms the kid and lets the shopkeeper have his wallet and radio back, then demands Billy attend his club to improve him.

For a while, Mr. T impersonations were everywhere in the nineteen-eighties, even more than the muscleman himself, with everyone from Gary Coleman on Diff'rent Strokes to Eddie Murphy in stand-up dusting off their best impressions for laughs. The genuine article was deadly serious, however, he was on a mission to set the kids of America, nay, the world, on the course of decency and upright morals and not lapse into evildoing. The motive was simple: he didn't want the mothers of America, nay, the world, getting upset with their kids, and "be good to your mother" was one of the celebrity's mantras as he repeated the importance of respect towards the woman who gave birth to you.

Mr. T was very good to his own mom, and in return she called him Mr. T (!), a name he had devised to ensure he was treated respectfully himself: you couldn't mention him without calling him "Mister" first, and the slightly incongruous image of this hardman instructing the youth of the day to stay in school and mind their manners endeared him to a generation. Before he had made this, his first starring role, he had swept to fame as Clubber Lang in Rocky III in 1982, which had led to his appearance as part of TV's hit action series The A-Team, where he was a goodie instead, though no less tough. Producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters, who would go on to blockbuster success soon after, hired him for his own vehicle.

This was that vehicle, a TV movie pitting Mr. T against some other big, musclebound blokes in a televised contest not unlike The World's Strongest Man, though without the barrel-carrying or pulling a Volkswagen with your teeth (or whatever). This was to win thousands of dollars to ensure the continuation of the youth club, though as you may expect, there were a few wrinkles in that plot, including Billy getting involved with gangsters who have invested in their bigger bad guy Tanker Weams (which sounds like a spoonerism but isn’t), played by Tom Milanovich, the current holder of the title. Will Bruise win against the odds and his inability to climb a wall using a rope? Why is he called Bruise and not Bruiser, which you would think would be more appropriate to his hard-won reputation?

Anyway, there may be some degree of suspense for you if you have never seen a television show before with regard to whether our hero wins the competition or not, but personally I would have disqualified him for an outrageous move he uses on the assault course - right at the end, you'll know it when you see it. In the meantime, we got to see Mr. T have a chair smashed over his face and not react at all, almost as if there had been a clear barrier of plastic or reinforced glass between him and said chair when making that shot, and also Mr. T make "Grrr!" faces with a little old lady in the mirror (presumably in a be nice to the elderly style). Around the same time as this, he was starring in his own cartoon series, the apex of eighties celebrity (he provided his own voice, too, which was more than his old sparring partner Sylvester Stallone did in the Rambo toon), and that was about the level of The Toughest Man in the World, a live action cartoon with a message for the kids to take away. By all rights, there should be no crime at all in the world by now - if only we'd listened to Mr. T.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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