Mildly amusing comedy but with too many unnecessary elements for its own good.
Contrary to popular belief, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an intelligent wiseass with a dry sense of humour, two things that can be readily seen in the documentary Pumping Iron. Financial acumen can also be assumed from his decision to invest his Mr. Universe winnings in real estate, resulting in him becoming a millionaire by the time he was 22. However, a decade of playing less than Einstein-like roles - emotionless, humour-free cyborgs (The Terminator), military personnel (Commando, Predator) and monosyllabic warriors (Conan the Barbarian) left people with a rather different perception of the Austrian superstar. This was despite having been in comedy at the beginning of his Hollywood career, starring alongside Kirk Douglas in Hal Needham's Cactus Jack (known as The Villain in the US) as the 'Handsome Stranger'.
Desiring to reverse this perceived notion of himself, in 1988 Schwarzenegger teamed up with Ghostbusters helmer Ivan Reitman for his first full comedy role since 1979 (though he had acquitted himself well earlier the same year as the straight man to Jim Belushi's wise-cracking Chicago cop in Red Heat).
There were a lot of good ingredients available for Twins - Schwarzenegger was at the peak of his career, and on top of the world, Ivan Reitman was highly regarded after the well-received and successful Ghostbusters, and attached as co-star was recognised comedy actor Danny DeVito. Of course, as we all know, even with the best ingredients things can turn out rather badly if not mixed correctly, and this is exactly what happened with Twins.
Julius (Schwarzenegger) and Vincent (DeVito) Benedict are twins (non-identical, of course, as Julius points out to Vincent when they first meet) who were separated at birth. The result of a eugenics experiment to create a perfect human (the film is far too light and fluffy to actually enter into the ethics of this), the brothers were created from the sperm of 6 men, all leaders in their chosen fields, and the egg of one woman, Mary Ann Benedict (the young Mary Ann is played by Heather Graham in an early role). At the birth, however, they were in for a shock, as there were two babies and not the expected one. First born was Julius, the perfect human, and the proof that their experiment was a success. Following close behind, though, was Vincent - in effect all the left-over genetic crap that didn't go into his brother.
Informing their mother that her child had not survived, the laboratory was shut down and the babies sent away - Julius to a South Seas paradise and Vincent to a Catholic orphanage in LA. The film opens with Julius, who has been living on the island for over 30 years and working as an assistant to a scientist, being told that he has a brother, and setting off for the US to find him. Meanwhile, Vincent, who has become a con-man and all around low-grade criminal, is making a living stealing cars from airport car parks and selling them to garages. Soon after Julius arrives in LA, Vincent is thrown in gaol for several hundred dollars of unpaid parking fines, and this is where Julius meets him. Understandably Vincent doesn't believe that he and Julius are brothers, but is happy to use Vincent to get him out of trouble.
The rest of the movie largely concerns Julius' attempts to get Vincent to believe his story, while tracking down their mother. Most of the laughs are supposed to come from the chalk and cheese nature of the brothers, along with Julius' naivety of all matters female. To this end, a road trip is thrown in, with sisters Marnie and Linda Mason (Kelly Preston and Chloe Webb respectively) along for company. Marnie is attracted to Julius, and is far from subtle in her attempts to usher him into manhood. Unfortunately, the laughs are far and few between. DeVito and Schwarzenegger work well together, and there is a definite chemistry between them, but they are really given little to work with in a very lacklustre script. The entirely extraneous sub-plot involving the delivery of a stolen engine to Texas, with ensuing show-down with a rather miffed hitman, is incredibly tired, and feels like it has been tacked on, as if Reitman couldn't quite commit to a Schwarzenegger film without an action sequence.
A better supporting cast may have also helped. Preston, while certainly easy on the eye, is entirely unmemorable, and Chloe Webb merely annoying. The biggest portion of blame for the film's failings, though, must be laid squarely at the feet of the director. His two leading men try their best, but Reitman's direction is uninspired, and at times the film crawls along. Twins also raises the question of whether Ghostbusters was a freak, and whether it would have shown Reitman in such a good light had it not starred two such fine comedians as Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray.
After watching Twins, as so often happens, you are left wondering what might have been. It could have been so much better, and this wasted potential leaves you feeling massively disappointed. Still, it is by no means the worst film you'll ever see, but if you haven't seen it I certainly won't be urging you to run down to your local Blockbuster to rent a copy. One of the weaker films in Schwarzenegger's canon, I judge this film to contain 2 units of goodness, out of a possible 5.
Danny DeVito (Vincent Benedict)
Kelly Preston (Marnie Mason)
Chloe Webb (Linda Webb)