Movie review: ‘Twins’

I always like it when a tightly stereotyped actor steps out of his or her comfort zone with a different kind of role. It gets even better when another A-list actor doesn’t turn his or her more acclaimed nose up at another star and enjoys a co-starring effort. So I therefore thoroughly enjoyed “Twins” with Arnold Schwarzenegger not wielding a machine gun (he does some nice low-key action, though) and Danny DeVito hooking up with him while bringing his special brand of big-screen presence to a light comedy film. Schwarzenegger might have a much more varied resume than you might initially believe, but there’s no question he’s out of his comfort zone here – and he does a good job with it. DeVito, though, is the star and I hope Arnie managed to learn something from him.

‘Twins’
(1988; 107 minutes; rated PG; directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito and Kelly Preston)

SO MUCH ALIKE THAT THEY’RE DIFFERENT

(NOTE: I reorganized and expanded this review with additional opinion and trivia and updated links on March 29, 2020.)

While I give Arnold Schwarzenegger credit for trying to do some different emotions in “Twins,” the film is actually Danny DeVito’s, as he does a really nice turn as the terminally pessimistic and somewhat criminal minded twin who cannot accept that Schwarzenegger is his brother.

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Well, could you blame him? After all, DeVito is a microscopic 4-foot-10 and doesn’t stack up physically in any way to the muscle-bound and 6-foot-2 Schwarzenegger. However unlikely they are physically, the two actors manage to bond their characters and create a neat, endearing couple who just jump off the screen at the audience.

The neatest part is that after more than 25 years, it was announced in 2012 that a sequel is in the works. It was tentatively titled “Triplets” (although in 2012, Arnie said it would be called “Twins 2”) and makes Eddie Murphy the third sibling in this most unusual family. While the film is planned, I can’t find any firm report of the scheduled release date. OK, so here’s one that whenever it comes out, I’ll catch it in its premiere day in theaters.

In “Twins,” the two men are the product of a genetics experiment but unaware of each other. Their mother was told that Schwarzenegger died at birth and was never told about DeVito. Schwarzenegger is raised an intellectual on an island in the South Pacific while DeVito is abandoned and sent to an orphanage. OK, that’s the back story. The movie begins with Schwarzenegger being told he has a twin and him setting out to find DeVito.

Of course Arnie, who plays “Julius Benedict,” finds DeVito, who plays “Vincent Benedict,” and so begins the dance between them as Schwarzenegger’s complete lack of street smarts and overriding naiveté initially makes him a mark for DeVito’s basic criminal nature. However, the two bond (of course), especially when DeVito sees the advantage of Arnie’s physical abilities.

The love interests are DeVito’s girlfriend and her sister, who takes an immediate shine to Schwarzenegger. The movie plays the rest of the way out as bookmakers seek to collect a debt from DeVito and are continually thwarted by Arnie and DeVito finding a stolen piece of technology in a car he swipes with the unwitting help of Schwarzenegger – and he attempts to sell it. A hit man who was supposed to deliver the technology then tracks DeVito and tries to kill him. But, guess what? You got it.

The boys marry the girls; they find their mother; and each becomes a father of … yes, you guessed it: twins.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the cast …

  • A Golden Globe winner and nominee (unfortunately not for this one), Schwarzenegger actually works on showing emotions in the film and while Brando-esque actors would just shake their heads, I’ll give Arnie some props for at least trying and, just like in most of his films, he is fun to watch on screen and only a snob would disagree. Thanks, Arnie! You hit a homerun with this one. Schwarzenegger was in “Predator” (click here for my review), “Commando” (click here for my review), “The Running Man” (click here for my review) and, of course, is best known for “The Terminator” franchise. However, I’d say his best action movie is with Jamie Lee Curtis in “True Lies” (click here for my review) and he headlines a great Christmas flick: “Jingle All the Way” (click here for my review). Arnie won his Globe for “Stay Hungry” from 1976 and was nominated for “Junior” in which the plays a pregnant male scientist.
  • An Oscar nominee (not for this one), DeVito doesn’t appear to have to give much to do the best acting here. He brings the most pure talent of all the actors to the table and it shows from his first scene. DeVito, like Arnie, is just simply fun to watch – although you can predict everything that’s going to happen five minutes before it does. DeVito was much better in “Ruthless People” with Bette Midler (click here for my review) and the funky, little-remembered “The Oh in Ohio” and made his mark first with TV’s “Taxi.” He’s won a Golden Globe and had five of those nominations and won and earned three of the nominations for “Taxi.” His other Globe nominations were for “Ruthless People” and “Throw Momma from the Train.” His Oscar nomination was for Best Picture as co-producer of the lame and overrated “Erin Brockovich.”
  • A Primetime Emmy nominee, Chloe Webb gives the second-best performance here. Webb plays “Linda Mason” and is DeVito’s girlfriend here. She can’t help but love DeVito despite his shortcomings (no pun intended) and she navigates through these ups and downs perfectly. Webb was also in “Sid and Nancy,” “Practical Magic” and worked on TV’s “Shameless.” Webb’s career has slowed a bit and she earned her nomination for an episode of “China Beach.”
  • Although she’s absolutely gorgeous and has a wonderful part teed up for her, Kelly Preston, who plays “Marnie Mason,” starts out strong but lets the character fall flat by the end of the film. Preston, at a youthful 26 here, does a great job meeting and doing sneeky-peeky as Arnie changes clothes, but after that is pretty much part of the furniture. A more talented actor could have certainly elevated this character. She was also in “Jerry Maguire” and the neat but forgotten “Space Camp” (while 24, she plays a high school brainiac – click here for my review). Also, she was in the “From Dusk Till Dawn” gore-fest from Robert Rodriguez (click here for my review) “won” one “Razzie” for worst supporting actress with husband John Travolta in his “Battlefield Earth” super-stinker and was nominated for two more.
  • A two-time Emmy winner and one-time nominee, Bonnie Bartlett plays the older “Marian Benedict.” Her turn is so smooth and effortless that you actually believe she is the mother who was wronged and deceived by scientists. Bartlett won her Emmys for “ Elsewhere” and was nominated for another for the same TV show. Most recently she appeared on TV’s “Parks and Recreation” and she was “Helen” in two episodes on “Better Call Saul.”
  • In a neat, small role, Golden Globe winner Hugh O’Brien plays “Granger” and he’s one of the men who “contributed” to making the twins. He is smooth and convincing in his lone scene. O’Brien was in “The Shootist” with John Wayne (click here for my review) and even did an episode of “The Love Boat” (thanks, Hugh – and click here for special about “The Love Boat”). He won his Globe for “The Man from the Alamo.” O’Brien died at 91 in 2016.
  • The nastiest character is played by Nehemiah Persoff as “Dr. Mitchell Traven.” He’s the lying snake in charge of the research that produced the twins and he is haughty and takes cruel delight (and is really good at) dishing out the burns on DeVito, since it’s obvious he sees Danny as literal evidence of the failure side of his project. Persoff was in “Some Like it Hot” and “Yentl.” As he approaches his 100th birthday in 2020, Persoff’s last credit was uncredited as “Rabbi” for the Jerusalem-born actor in the TV mini-series “Angels in America.”
  • Marshall Bell plays the killer called “Webster” and he does a competent job, especially be so off-handed about murder, that he eases through without much apparent effort. Bell has worked with Arnie before in the original “Total Recall” and was also in “Starship Troopers” and “Stand By Me.” He was also in “The Rum Diary” and “Capote.”
  • Trey Wilson jumps out at you with his brash personality in each one of the very few moments he’s on screen as “Beetroot McKinley” (he’s the buyer of the stolen technology). Wilson, who died young at 40 of a cerebral hemorrhage the year after “Twins” was released, had a memorable role as the team manager in “Bull Durham” and also did good work in “Married to the Mob” (click here for my review).
  • Sven-Ole Thorsen plays “Sam Klane,” one of the brothers who are DeVito’s nemesis here (and Arnie’s ongoing victims). He does a nice, understated turn and the crook that you know will be bested by Arnie every time. Thorsen is a former bodybuilder known for his roles as the strong muscleman. He’s been in “The Hunt for Red October” and with Schwarzenegger in “The Running Man.”

An Oscar nominee (not for this one), director Ivan Reitman, who also did the outstanding comedies “Meatballs” (click here for my review), “Stripes” and “Ghostbusters,” handles the stereotypes necessary in this kind of film with aplomb and then makes sure that the best, most creative parts shine bright. Reitman was nominated for Best Picture as co-producer for “Up in the Air” (his son Jason was the director) and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for one of my favorite HBO films: “The Late Shift” (click here for my review) about the first late-night “war” between David Letterman and Jay Leno. He also directed “Draft Day” with Kevin Costner (click here for my review).

Thanks, Ivan. You don’t need me to tell you, but, “Nice job!”

As you might expect, “Twins” was a top 10 at the box office in 1988. It was No. 5 film with $111.9 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Worldwide, “Twins” made $216.6 million on its budget of $18 million, according to Wiki. It received less than unanimous praise from critics, though it now is considered a semi-classic comedy. The No. 1 film of the year was “Rain Man” with $172.8 million. The other films from 1988 that I’ve reviewed are:

Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):

  • A big sigh of relief! Arnie and Danny were given the chance to do “Twins” or “Suburban Commando.” You know what they selected, but what you most likely don’t know is that if they had chosen the other film, then Hulk Hogan and Christopher Lloyd would have done “Twins.” Ouch! Simply the thought of the Hogan-Lloyd team is one that creates nightmares.
  • Heather Graham is the young “Mary Ann Benedict” in an uncredited effort.
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “Schwarzenegger got 20% of the profits, and made $35,000,000 through international sales, video/DVD sales and TV screenings.” DeVito took the same percentage deal and both actors received their respective ever highest paydays for a movie (more surprising for Arnie as a megastar than DeVito).
  • At the writing of the update of this review (March 29, 2020), Persoff was looking forward to his 100th birthday in August. Some reports have his birthday in 1919. In either case, happy centennial!
  • Reitman’s son Jason has a small part as Granger’s grandson. He’d go on to a career as a director like his father. His best? I say it is “Thank You for Smoking” (click here for my review) is one of the best under-the-radar films of the past 25 years.
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “Clint Eastwood visited the set the day they shot the scene with Julius singing on the plane. He remarked to Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘I didn’t realize you had such talent.’”
  • Click here for IMDb.com’s trivia page about the movie …

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