REVIEW: How many fathers does it take to make an Arnold Schwarzenegger? Turns out, the answer is 6. Six strong, mentally and spiritually superior men. How many mothers? Well, only one. And stop it right there you perv, because that is not how she did it. No. This was all done scientifically in a secret laboratory by the American government in the hopes of creating the perfect male specimen that is in no way reminiscent of any historical genetic experiments aimed at producing a race of superior beings but totally is. So out pops one baby, and there was much rejoicing, but a minute later, along comes another one, though right away there are some notable difference.
While the first baby is a paragon of baby power perfection, the second one, meh, not so much. Smaller, louder, and just plain sub-normal, the little guy is quickly separated from his brother. Meanwhile, Julius grows up on a secluded tropical island paradise where he is raised to be a genius. He speaks 12 languages (though never uses even one of them in the film, well, other than English, mostly), is a master in history, literature, math and science and has the physique of a world-class body builder like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh wait. It’s not until he’s all growed up when he learns about Vincent, his twin. So he decides to pack it up and head out into the great big world and find him, thinking that he and his twin are surely just the same.
Thing is, Julius has never been off the island, so everything he comes in contact with is something new. He’s got the smarts but lacks the experience. From ice cream cones and street vendors to scantily clad girls and homeless people, Julius sees it all while wondering about Los Angeles in search of Vincent. There’s even time for some pop culture inside jokes about how his muscles are bigger than Sylvester Stallone’s muscles.
Julius eventually learns that Vincent was raised in a Catholic orphanage, and though he hopes that Vincent led a good early life, he discovers that his brother was actually nothing but a scoundrel. That’s right. I used the word “scoundrel.” He caused all kinds of mischief (I’m on an old-timey word roll here) and even disgraced one of the nuns to the point where she had to leave. (They totally had sex. And he was only 12!). Julius is discouraged and becomes convinced he has to save his brother from further ruining his life. He goes straight to where one of the nuns at the orphanage believes Vincent will be: jail.
A bit skeptical at first, Vincent eventually takes to the idea that the hulking Julius is his long lost twin. Once out of jail, the two team up, with Julius thinking he can restore a family connection while Vincent sees huge potential in a genius bodybuilder as his brother. Especially when thugs come along looking to collect money owed. They don’t stand a chance against the Terminator. Things begin to look up for the often down on his luck Vincent.
But then, owing to the gods of Hollywood scriptwriting, a caper ensues. Vincent, the car thief that he is, tricks Julius into jacking a parked car, which he plans to sell to his chop-shop guy, but in the trunk, he discovers a nifty new gadget: a prototype fuel injector that has a buyer in Houston looking to nab it for five million dollars. Easy money, Vincent thinks. Problem is, the original seller isn’t happy he’s lost his car and starts a search for his prize. With a gun. Not only that, but Vincent is in over his head with some loan sharks who are following him around threatening to make life very difficult. He’s got trouble in every direction. And it’s piling up. His plan is to take the car to Texas by himself, but as it goes, not only does Julius tag along, but Vincent’s girlfriend Linda joins, and her sister, Marnie, too, who with one look at Julius also decides she’s ready for a ride. That last part describes both the plot and Marnie’s carnal desire. Yummy.
There’s some good new for the boys though. They learn that on the way to Texas, they can stop by an artist’s colony called Whispering Pines and finally meet their mother, whom Julius had been told was dead and Vincent thought had long ago abandoned him. Once there though, they’re told, nope, she’s dead. Now get out. It’s a tough break and upsets Vincent especially as he was getting kinda keen to the idea of a family. But, oh, guess what? She really isn’t dead. She just pretended to be because she thought the two men claiming to be her long lost sons were merely real estate developers.
Directed by Ivan Reitman, Twins was a huge box office hit, taking a three-minute skit premise and streeeeeeetching it out to more than an hour and a half. Simple to exaggerated lengths, the film does little with the plot device other than what we see on the poster: a very tall and muscly man with a short pudgy man leaning against him. It hints at grander ideas but continually side-steps them for pointless killings and action that seem absurdly out of context. A jet fuel injector? Corporate espionage? An assassin that says he kills people who have seen him but only does that once even though other people clearly see him. These are the subplots? Why not explore the men’s relationship? It still could have been funny. Instead, they go for ludicrously shallow and insultingly silly sight gags like the men doing things in perfect choreography, you know, because they’re twins. They even hint as some supernatural connection between them, like when one is hurt the other feels it (a wildly tired “twin” movie trope). Typically, the young women are played up mostly for their sexuality and have little to do other than talk about the men or complain about the men. At one point, the lovely Kelley Preston is curled up in the back seat of a car, nestled innocently against Julius. He sees a bit of her bare legs and they cut to his bicep bulging and bulging and tearing through the sleeve of his shirt. Subtle. Like a mallet. Still, Schwarzenegger and DeVito are a perfect fit and elevate what they can from the weak script. The two men are naturally charming and warm-hearted, and it shows throughout. It’s clear they were having a great time and it is kinda fun to see them together. But it’s not enough to save this directionless mess. There is talk of a sequel with the men discovering that Eddie Murphy is their triplet! One word: Groan.
That Moment In: Twins
Scene Setup: Right from the start, Vincent has been skeptical of Julius. How could this behemoth be his twin? He’s tried a number of time to ditch the big guy, but it ain’t happening. On the road trip, they grow a little closer, but Vincent is a wary man, and keeps his distance, never too sure what to make of it all. At last, they end up at the laboratory in New Mexico where they track down Professor Mitchell Traven, one of the men responsible for the experiments that produced both boys. The professor comes clean and brings them to the very room where they were born. For Vincent, this is a pivotal moment. It all becomes real. And terribly heartbreaking.
The Scene: (Time stamp 0:59:11) In the lab, Professor Traven explains how they were trying to make the perfect human specimen but didn’t anticipate Vincent in the womb with Julius (which begs the question, just how well-equipped was this laboratory?). For some reason, the good professor is a total dick towards Vincent and pretty much tells him that all the crap leftover from making Julius went into what Vincent sees in the mirror every morning. Actually, that’s exactly what he tells him. Harsh.
From there, a despondent Vincent sits in the parking lot with Julius, contemplating the discovery that he is, in fact, a side effect of the experiment. “Genetic garbage,” he calls himself. Up to this point, Vincent has been aggressively optimistic, full of energy and unabashedly confident. Now he sags in despair, feeling he has no real place in this life. It’s a sharp turn from the light comedy and is surprisingly affecting.
Danny DeVito is an exceptional comedian, and has been one of the funniest actors around for decades. It is because of this that his reaction to the news that he is not who always thought he was comes across with so much power. There is a heaviness to the character that suddenly makes sense, and while we’ve known all along who he is, we aren’t prepared for what it will be like when he learns. Vincent has always been a quick thinker, a little daring, and, if anything, unbreakable. Suddenly, he is vulnerable. It’s starkly emotional.
And here’s where something remarkable happens. Julius, attempting to console his brother, reminds him that they are twins, that they are practically the same. Vincent, still shaken by the news, becomes bitter, scolding Julius, telling him that they don’t look the same, don’t act the same, don’t talk the same, don’t dress the same. So how can they be the same?
Julius explains that they had six fathers, that they are the parts of different people. But more importantly, he admits that he was the fortunate one, that he was taken to a beautiful island, protected, educated, and loved. But Vincent had nobody. No one to love him, to trust him and to encourage him. The only person life taught him that he could count on was himself. Julius says that Vincent in the missing part of his life, and the he is the missing part of Vincent’s life. Together, they can fill the missing part of their mother’s life. They can be a family. Vincent won’t be alone anymore. Even when he’s been bad.
The scene is touching and both actors do more with it than expected, so much so that is leaves the remainder of the film flat. Here, right in this moment, is where the movie should have stayed and explored, dropping the unnecessary killer man subplot and corporate shenanigans. Schwarzenegger is tender and highly convincing, quietly giving the scene the space it needs. This is about brotherhood and the bonds therein, and he shows Vincent that being a twin isn’t about looking the same, acting the same, or dressing the same. It’s about the love and trust he had and what Vincent lacked, and making sure neither are without in the time ahead. Their difference are what make them special, and eternally a family.
And then the movie raises both fists and squarely gives two middle fingers straight to the audience. Never mind. The remainder of the film is the men acting the same, dressing the same, and having this silly twins connection thing that flies straight in the face of everything Julius so wonderfully assured his brother. Angry face.
But for a few minutes, the movie was exactly what the title implies and showcases some of the best acting either men has done, at least in terms of drama.