The World According to Arnie: Twins (1988)
The career of Arnold Schwarzenegger is really quite impressive. More accurately, the development from a stiff, awkward actor to one that seems like a naturally gifted action star is impressive. By the end of the 80’s Arnie was one of the worlds biggest stars, despite making nothing but R-rated action films (Lets forget about the Conan sequels). By the time ‘Twins’ came out, he had become confident and comfortable acting in front of the camera, and this confidence, as well as some very tongue in cheek roles in ‘Commando’ and ‘The Running Man’, established him as a gifted comedian, with terrific comic timing. So it seemed a natural progression that he tone down the violence (a little) and make a (mostly) kid friendly comedy. The result is, of course, Ivan Reitman’s ‘Twins’.
Scientists involved in a genetic experiment in the 1950’s get more than they bargained for. The experiment, intended to produce a “perfect” baby from the sperm of six of the worlds physical and mental elite, hit a snag when two babies popped out. The intended child, Julius grew up on a secluded tropical island with everything he needed and turned into a giant, musclebound Austrian, and the “genetic trash” named Vincent was dumped in a Los Angeles orphanage and turned into a pint sized, tubby lowlife. When Julius learns of Vincent, he rows the 27 miles to the nearest airport and travels to LA to find him. There he finds his brother, a love interest, searches for the truth about their mother and helps Vincent out of a jam when he gets involved in the shady illegal sale of jet engine technology.
‘Twins’ is a funny, light hearted, mostly good natured film that uses sight gags, innocence and fish out of water jokes to create an enjoyable atmosphere. After seeing some of this years alleged comedies, like ‘Horrible Bosses’ and ‘The Change Up’, it’s a surprising reminder that humour in Hollywood used to be more about character and situation and less about a baby projectile pooing in someone’s face, sex with a nearly full term pregnant woman where you can see the baby kicking, or sexy, slow motion shots of a woman before a punchline of her sitting on the toilet and blustering out a bowel full of last nights Chicken Korma. Okay, they’re all from ‘The Change Up’. I can’t really remember anything from ‘Horrible Bosses’ to use as an example because it’s pretty much gone from my memory. It still sucks though.
Arnie is in top form here. The whole film revolves around him playing the small town innocent in the big city, and he and Danny DeVito make a great team. He cheerfully sends up his stature as an imposing Hollywood tough guy, and his wide eyed innocence is very entertaining. He takes the lions share of the laughs, simply because DeVito has made a career out of the scheming, untrustworthy lowlife character. While he enjoys some good lines here and there and some funny reaction shots, he’s used primarily as a plot device. What you get when you cast DeVito is the comfortable knowledge that he’ll deliver that type of character. This was probably important, because no doubt there would have been some trepidation when casting Arnie in his first comedy.
Director Ivan Reitman keeps ‘Twins’ moving at a brisk pace, and there aren’t any low points where jokes don’t really work or it gets a bit boring. It’s a comedy that begins and ends on a plateau of pleasant chuckles. Nothing outright hilarious, and no comedy clangers. The supporting characters, such as the love interests played by Kelly Preston and Chloe Webb (it’s even less believable that these two are siblings!) are a little overshadowed by the double act of Arnie and DeVito. They’re mostly along as window dressing, but in a scene where Preston deflowers Arnie, he delivers some great reaction shots and the post coitus look on Arnie’s face is priceless (see the pic of Arnie at the end of the review).
Arnie has some good lines, such as in a fight scene where he gets angry at the guy (he doesn’t like violence) because he does not “respect logic”. But mostly the film is happy enough to put him in situations where he doesn’t understand the ulterior motives of people trying to take advantage of him. These scenes work nicely because Arnie brings great warmth and charm to the role.
The only negative aspect of ‘Twins’ is the violence. There’s a bit too much gun related murder in a light hearted family film for my tastes. The violence itself isn’t actually graphic, or even on screen for the most part. But it’s mere presence brings the film down a little. It would’ve been fine if the story was just about Arnie helping DeVito out of a jam with loan sharks, because the scenes where Arnie fights the loan sharks brothers are very funny. It’s the whole jet engine technology sub-plot that feels unnecessary, and when Marshall Bell starts shooting people, it feels a bit out of place.
For the most part, ‘Twins’ is good fun. Arnie looks like he’s having a great time sending up his own image, and he and Danny DeVito work very well together. Arnie has proven that he’s as capable as anyone with a punchline, and the success of the film should lead to further comedies. He’s come a long, long way since ‘Hercules in New York’.
Arnie’s World View…