Arnold Schwarzenegger was a star before Ivan Reitman’s Twins was released in 1988, but of all the movies in Arnold’s filmography before this one, only Conan the Barbarian managed to crack a hundred million bucks at the box office, and quite a number didn’t make much cash at all. In fact, Arnold was being typecast, which is not necessarily a bad thing if that type is international action star. But it was with Twins that Arnold became a crossover star, much to the detriment of the moviegoing public, and myself, who will have to sit through some truly burdensome Arnold comedies this month. And it all began with Twins.
I have not seen Twins since around the time it hit theaters. I guess I enjoyed it when I was twelve years old, but that me is a quarter century gone, and his taste sucked. Twins may have made a boatload of money back in the ’80s, all-but ensuring Arnold would be spending much less of his subsequent career kicking ass and delivering cheesy one-liners, but it is not holding up well. This movie has about as many hard edges as warm cookie dough. It’s squishy and sentimental, the music sounds like it was lifted straight from Romper Room, and Arnold looks like he’s stoned out of his gourd the entire film. Bizarrely, this film received a PG rating here in the states, despite there being quite a lot of murder in it. Sure, there is a lot less murder in Twins than anything Arnold had been in since Stay Hungry, but there is still more murder than I see in real life on a daily basis.
Twins tells the story of two unlikely brothers, Julius and Vincent Benedict (Arnold and Danny DeVito, respectively). The two of them were the result of secret government genetics experiments. Julius was a success, while Vincent was less so. As such, Julius spent his life on a tropical island lifting weights and reading books, while Vincent was shuttled off to a Catholic orphanage in Los Angeles, where he learned to be a wiseass little hustler. Vincent should probably be in jail, but in my opinion, a little nurture would have helped that nature. Maybe I’m just being naïve.
The movie lives and dies on the interactions of its two costars. Thankfully for the viewer, Arnold and DeVito work well enough together. Only in the same movie universe where people can’t tell Clark Kent is Superman would people actually buy that these two are brothers, but who cares? It’s all in fun. But when this movie tries to do something fundamental to film, like tell a story, it falls apart. The movie plays like a thirty-second pitch stretched out to 107 minutes. How’s this for an idea? Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito are twins separated at birth. Gold! What about the story? We’ll figure something out later.
That story, transparently an afterthought, goes something like this: Vincent likes to steal cars from a garage at LAX. One day, he steals the wrong car. In the trunk is an engine prototype that a millionaire businessman in Texas wants very badly, so Vincent and Julius head off to Texas. But hot on their trail is the bad guy who was supposed to deliver the engine originally, and he’s pissed. Hilarity ensues. I attack the plot for being contrived, but honestly, it’s no more contrived than Arnold and DeVito’s familial relation. What really gets me about this movie is its tone. Its softness and unoriginality seems designed to appeal to a mass audience without challenging said audience in the slightest. I’m sure the people involved in its production were happy with its success, or maybe they felt nothing because their brains are swimming in lithium.