“I don’t know what the problem is, but I’m sure it can be solved without resorting to violence.”
Dir. Ivan Reitman
Runtime: 107 minutes
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Kelly Preston, Chloe Webb
Towards the end of the 1980’s, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s film career started to branch out more. The first sign of this was with “Commando” (1985) which saw him given more dialogue than his previous ventures. A dramatic change though came with 1988’s “Twins”. Known for being an out and out action film star, this film saw him trying on a family comedy which had minimal action compared to his previous films. This Ivan Reitman directed film was to feature two stars who were poles apart in appearance, and then wove a story around it that would be amusing enough for audiences to buy tickets to see.
Born in a lab, Julius and Vincent Benedict were the result of a genetic experiment. Pretty disgusting and ethically it’s very questionable but – sperm donated by 6 different fathers was altered and used to impregnate a surrogate mother who carried a child until birth. That cocktail of, err, altered ‘man-muck’… or err… ‘baby making juice‘ worked – a super child was born. Given the name Julius, a perfect baby was born, he was a big and strong baby. Also birthed though was a twin brother to Julius that nobody expected. While Julius was considered a perfect specimen, cruelly his twin Vincent was an unplanned accident and therefore was considered inferior. He wasn’t the same size as his twin brother – so to the scientists playing God, that meant he must be a by-product of the experiment.
After being born, the surrogate mother, Mary Ann Benedict, was only told about one child, and that it died during birth. The grief of child loss and the rigor of the experiment prompted her to hide herself away, where she sought out a quiet life as an artist. Julius was taken to a remote Pacific island with one of the scientists where he was educated and allowed to grow – he wanted for nothing as everything was available. He was taught well and became extremely intelligent, his body was trained, and he became strong, and he gained spiritually purity too – the 3 qualities for a perfect person apparently. He was not told he had a twin till his 35th birthday. Vincent on the other hand had only ever had himself to rely on – no scientists to guide him, no access to knowledge or spirituality. He was dumped in an orphanage but escaped; he had always wanted and needed, but never had; he’d been in plenty of trouble too – and not just with the law (mainly because he’s a con-artist who specializes in stealing cars at the airport and delivering them to chop-shops). While mother was told her child died, the children were told their mother died in childbirth.
One day Julius sets out to find his twin brother but it’s not going to be an easy journey, especially as he’s had a sheltered life on a luxurious island – America will prove to be a test and an eye-opener. Julius may be book smart, but he is not street smart like Vincent, which is the total opposite of Vincent. At first, they make an odd pairing, but eventually they complement each other well – in a roundabout way at least anyway. They adventure together to find out about their mother only to find that she might still be alive. Unbeknown to Julius, Vincent also has an ulterior motive for travelling as he acts as a delivery man to pay off some dodgy criminals that he is in trouble with.
… or… here’s a summary in 180 characters or less…
They are nothing alike, but two genetically created twins go on a journey to find out about their mother who they were told was dead.
This is one of those films that probably wouldn’t get made in today’s market – it’s a bit too simple and it could be mistaken for using appearances as its main issue. The way the film opens up is actually a bit cringy the way it mentions that 6 scientists had a sperm cocktail altered to make a baby, and that Vincent must be the waste product of the experiment because his body is inferior to his twins’ body as an in fact. The film eventually points out that it is looking at more than just physicality, but it doesn’t stumble onto that till a later part. The physical differences are muted point of humour initially but only really serve as an introduction to the differences. While Julius is a physical specimen with a high IQ, he is not as worldly as his brother Vincent who grew up on the mean streets. Vincent had to fight for everything, he has been in trouble with the law; he’s been in fights; he’s been with a girl; he’s been in love; he’s struggled to get an income; he’s OK with lying and cheating – all the things Julius isn’t or hasn’t. Somewhere in the middle they could do with being a bit more like each other. As the film progresses Vincent needs to learn that he isn’t just an accident, and the twins need each other to be complete. Maybe it’s not the best message that the film is sending – that to be the perfect human you need traits that both Julius and Vincent possess – but let’s not mull on that for too long. In the film’s defense it’s a product of the 1980’s, and it’s supposed to be a family comedy – not a factual analysis of the human race and evolution.
While this film might not be perfect it is a feel-good buddy film still, it is warm and fuzzy in a 1980’s way. Arnie and DeVito do well opposite each other. Like most people in the film I would never imagine them related in any way whatsoever, so using them is a great juxtaposition to employ. It isn’t just a visual juxtaposition as I’ve mentioned though, if you take into account the behaviour and mannerisms then you have a lot more. DeVito the rough and tough streetwise New Yorker, and Arnie the chiseled but dumb as wood European. They play their parts well and both bounce of each other, DeVito possibly having funnier dialogue, while Arnie having the funnier visual gags. Arnie has always had a funny side to him, evident in his earliest work in front of the camera, but it gave way because of his physique. While DeVito is funny here, he’s had better turns before and after this film.
I kind of felt sorry for the female leads in this as everything seems to be about Arnie and DeVito (which you’d expect as Hollywood big shots), and the woman are just really passengers. Kelly Preston and Chloe Webb seem to be more an accessory to the men in the film, they don’t serve a massive role in their own right. They are there to look pretty and occasionally say “wow isn’t Arnie chiseled – that’s hot!” or “Look at Danny getting all angry, isn’t he cute!“. They get to act as damsels in distress, they get to look pretty on the arm of their respected twin, they occasionally get a line of fun dialogue – but, using the Star System theory as my guide, if they weren’t there, they wouldn’t have been massively missed. The film isn’t outright misogynistic, but it could have done better – but then again, it’s the 1980’s and the two male characters are the stars and the vehicle to film – everyone else is just a passenger.
The plot isn’t that complex really, if it wasn’t for the underhanded motives of Vincent that he has to learn and grow from, the film probably could have been wrapped up in half an hour. DeVito’s Vincent is probably the star of the show here despite Arnie’s top billing. While its Arnie’s Julius that acts as the catalyst to start the adventure off, its Vincent’s need to change that is key to success. Arnie becomes more an accessory to change DeVito who ends up outshining the big Austrian.
This isn’t the first time the pair appear in a film together, in fact this isn’t the first time that DeVito, Arnie and the director Ivan Reitman would be working together. 1994 gave audiences “Junior” which tried to feed off what success this film had. Unfortunately, while this was warm and fuzzy, the 1994 film wasn’t as good an outing for all parties involved in my opinion. Maybe the follow up to this film, “Triplets” which is rumoured will be a success. “Triplets” was announced in 2017 with Ivan Reitman signed up to direct Arnie, DeVito, and also Eddie Murphy. In the film, according to rumours, Julius and Vincent were going to find out they had a third sibling – I’m not holding my breath for that to be an award-winning film!
“Twins” may at times be predictable but it’s light-hearted fun with humour thrown in. The thing that really drove my enjoyment of the film is the chemistry between the two central stars of the film. As far as Arnie’s first foray into family comedy, it isn’t just a nice place to start, it’s actually stood as one of his most successful attempts at a family comedy in his career. This isn’t the best film you will ever watch, but it’s harmless fun that can cheer up a lazy Sunday afternoon.