Twins

Twins. Universal Studios 1988.
Twins. Universal Studios 1988.

Before watching the movie:

The intent to depict contrast is very overt here. Separated at birth, a pair of twin babies grow into Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, from completely opposite walks of life. A series of comic misadventures happen when they finally meet that probably has a “not so different” or “family is stronger than upbringing” theme.

I thought this marked my entry into Schwarzenegger’s infamous comedy period, but technically Last Action Hero is infamous and a comedy also, even if I liked it. I’ve also seen Jingle All The Way, which is frequently derided, but doesn’t get lumped in with the infamy surrounding Twins, Kindergarten Cop, and Junior. Hopefully I’ll like this better than the conventional wisdom as well.

After watching the movie:

Julius Benedict is the product of a eugenics experiment combining the genetic material of several exceptional donor fathers. He grew up on a remote island being conditioned to be the best physical, mental, and moral human specimen ever, until the day the scientist raising him revealed to him that in addition to the above, he also had a twin brother separated from him at birth. Julius immediately sets off to America to find him. His brother Vincent grew up in an orphanage, was expelled at age 12 for inappropriate congress with one of the nuns, and is thoroughly a scoundrel. He’s also thousands of dollars in debt to violent loan sharks, and the loan is due. When the latest car Vincent steals turns out to be carrying valuable stolen merchandise that’s to be delivered in Texas, and he can’t stop Julius from insisting to come along (and bring their girlfriends) to find their mother and fathers as they pass through New Mexico. On the way, they’re followed not only by the angry loan sharks, but also the cold-blooded man who was supposed to be delivering that car.

A brief note on the science, since this is ringing Sci-fi’s doorbell (and running away to hide in the bushes, laughing at Sci-fi when it answers the door to find nobody there). I’m not nearly as bothered by the idea that one embryo split into the part that had demigod DNA and the part that had garbage DNA as the idea that they recombined the genetic samples of six men. The reason is that the former is pretty much impossible but has the entire story hanging on it, while the latter seems possible, but only with an understanding of DNA far beyond what they would have had in the 50s, secret government project or not. This setup is clearly designed as an audience-friendly version of eugenics that’s easy to explain, not as uncomfortable as a multigenerational breeding program, and has an end result of only two very unlike people. Even then, of the six fathers, they only bother finding one of them, and it turns out to be the one who’s most willing to be a dad to them.

This story runs on a few too many coincidences. Obviously, Vincent stealing a car that happens to be carrying hot goods isn’t one of them, because it drives the story. But there are issues like how the headmistress of the orphanage tells Julius that Vincent is probably in jail, and that just happens to be the day that he really is in jail. Or that the last address they have for their mother is where the donor father who has all the information they still need lives. Julius stumbling into the place Vincent is in trouble in at the end may also count. It’s probably explained by the subliminal psychic twin bond they have (cheesy, even if it’s based on connections real twins claim to experience).

Schwarzenegger and DeVito are playing types they’re very familiar with. Schwarzenegger has played more than a few naive, optimistic guys (the “gentle giant” type?), and DeVito may only have one character ever. They perform as their characters more than they act, which isn’t necessarily bad. I’m not here for the art. DeVito actually gets a genuine acting moment, but it’s held out so long I was sure it was going to get subverted. Marshall Bell does the “nice guy who will dispassionately kill you if you interfere with his plan” well enough that I was disappointed he didn’t get more screentime.

Not every movie can be a landmark. This wouldn’t attract die-hard fans or major accolades, but it’s funny and has an emotional core that works, which is as good as it should be.

 

Watch this movie: for a couple hours of fun. There might even be a drinking game in it.

Don’t watch this movie: for comic geniuses at the height of their careers.

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