Thursday, August 30, 2012


My memory of movies is kind of shoddy.  I can remember, in detail, where I was and who I was with for certain movies, but others just float in a memory vacuum.  I remember the movie fine, but I don't know when or why I watched it.  Twins is one of those mystery movies for me.  I know I enjoyed it as a kid, and I can recall a decent portion of the movie, but I don't know why I liked it or who I would have seen it with.  Maybe a look at the trailer will help jog my memory:
Even though I have seen Twins several times over the years, I can hardly believe that trailer was real.  It looks like someone trying to make a legitimate movie from a discarded SNL sketch.  It looks awful.  And yet I have positive memories of it?  I am definitely starting to doubt the merits of my nostalgia.  

Twins begins on a remote South Pacific island, where the inexplicably accented Julius (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is told for the first time that he has a twin brother.  Naturally, he assumes his brother will be a lot like him: impossibly fit, scientifically brilliant, and eager to be reunited with his family. 
Yes, I said "brilliant."  If you suspend your disbelief now, this movie will be much easier to watch.
Julius then hops in a raft and paddles his way to California to find his brother.  Naturally.  As it turns out, Julius' long-lost brother looks and acts nothing like him.  Hint: that's where the comedy comes in!  Vincent (Danny DeVito) is a short, fat, bald weasel of a man.  He aspires to white collar crime, but is willing to settle for stealing cars and selling them to chop shops.  In his free time, he constantly disappoints his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Linda (Chloe Webb).  When Julius finally (after one, maybe two scenes) tracks down Vincent, Vince is in jail.  Being a loving brother, Julius offers to pay the steep bail with his enormous briefcase of cash.  Of course, Vincent doesn't believe he is the twin brother of an Austrian bodybuilder, but he's not going to deny anyone the pleasure of getting him out of jail.  From that point on, all Julius has to do is convince Vincent that they are brothers and track down their missing parents.  And all Vincent has to do is stay one step ahead of some ruthless criminals who want to kill him.  That sounds like a pretty full plate for these two, but keep in mind that they both have to grow as people, learn to love, and waltz to a Jeff Beck cameo.
This is the movie that inspired the "Sounds legit" meme

The acting in Twins, while broad, isn't as goofy as the film's concept.  What is perhaps more surprising, in retrospect, is Arnold Schwarzenegger's competence in a comedic role.  Sure, he'd been funny on occasion in his action movies --- my personal favorite is him punching a horse in the face in Conan the Barbarian --- but this was his first real comedy.  His acting chops are clearly limited...
Arnold, reading his lines
...but his timing is actually pretty good.  Ahnuld is not a natural, but his stilted acting fits the innocence of his character and his broad expressions fit the gags in this movie.  Danny DeVito's performance is harder to describe.  In the beginning of the movie, he is the closest thing the audience has to a character that is thinking what they are thinking --- specifically, the phrase "Yeah, right," over and over again.
DeVito, discussing the plausibility of this script
As the film progresses, though, Vincent starts to believe.  That makes sense, because the audience is (hopefully) going through the same transition, if the film is working.  The way DeVito handles that change is to start acting consistently goofy to match Ahnuld's awkwardness.  That silliness is amplified by the fact that DeVito is forced to carry the dramatic moments in this movie because Schwarzenegger simply can't.  The ladies (Chloe Webb and Kelly Preston) were just fine in their supporting romantic roles.  They didn't have a lot of personality, but it was enough for their limited screen time.  It is worth pointing out that a young David Caruso has a small part in Twins as the parking attendant.  Sadly, he does not wear any sunglasses in this film.

Twins was directed by Ivan Reitman, toward the back-half of his incredibly successful run in the 80s and early 90s.  Reitman's skill set as a director seems to be allowing the talent to do their thing in front of the camera and edit it into a cohesive story later.  That method works when you've got an improvisational master like Bill Murray in your movies.  Replacing Murray with Schwarzenegger doesn't get the same result.  One side effect of that is a reliance on much, much broader comedy in Twins than in Reitman's best films, Stripes and Ghostbusters.  That's not necessarily a terrible thing, but it makes for a far more generic and formulaic comedy.
Except for the part where the brothers prepared to crush those poor, poor children

Reitman deserves credit for taking an absolutely ludicrous concept and making it into a watchable, even likable film.  That was not inevitable. 
It could have been much, much worse
What makes Twins work is how warm it is.  Yes, the plot is idiotic.  No, the acting is not very impressive.  Yes, the main concept also serves as the bulk of the film's jokes.  But it's pretty damn cute.  The physical comedy of the two brothers in sync, while not subtle, is well done.  The same goes for the ludicrous plot; as much as I want to hate this movie, seeing DeVito and Schwarzenegger with those puppy dog eyes, asking about their mom is downright adorable.  Is Twins a classic?  Definitely not.  It's pleasant, but utterly disposable entertainment that is almost immune to logic and scrutiny.  And it's pretty good for what it is.


  1. Well, I am glad you enjoyed this one, because IMDb shows an announced sequel, "Triplets," where the thrid son is... wait for it... a little longer... Eddie Murphy! What could possibly go wrong there?! If it is anything like Color of Money (which was made years after The Hustler), it should be gold! It is a proven formula.

  2. I am a longtime fan of Eddie Murphy's post-classic-laugh career. People sometimes forget that Norbit got an Oscar nomination, but I never will. Late-career Murphy with post-True Lies Ahnuld and the increasingly troll-like DeVito sounds like a can't miss pic!

    I think the important thing to remember about Twins is how incredible it is that this stupid premise worked at all, despite all logic. I'm sure lightning will strike twice. That's how lightning works, right?