At 25: “Twins”

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December 9, 2013 by billysparrow



Released: December 9, 1988

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Chloe Webb, Kelly Preston, Marshall Bell, Trey Wilson

“Twins” is most definitely a movie built for a 12-year-old. To recap the plot for those who have blocked it out of their memories, there’s a super-secret experiment involving a bunch of specially chosen dudes and one lucky woman in order to create a genetic marvel. And that genetic marvel is indeed born…but wait, there’s more. The mother gives birth to another child who is something significantly less than a genetic marvel. A lot of people involved are given bad information, and fast-forward 35 years to Julius the genetic marvel (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who was raised in isolation on an island and given the best in life, going on a mission to find his brother Vincent (Danny DeVito), who was raised in an orphanage and is a petty thief. Hijinks ensue.

Yes, that is “Twins.” Also, and perhaps most notably, “Twins” is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first successful foray into intentional comedy. “Red Heat” preceded it by a few months, and Arnold’s first film, “Hercules Goes to New York” (aka “Hercules Goes Bananas,” which was the title on the video box I rented from Palmer Video as a lad) was perhaps funnier than its creators intended.

I’m sure those who enjoyed the surge of testosterone they experienced upon seeing “Conan the Barbarian,” “Commando,” and “The Terminator” considered this a depressing development, but as a 12-year-old low on testosterone and mainly interested only in pro wrestling for his action fix, Schwarzenegger in a comedy seemed like the perfect chance to see what he was all about (I can’t remember if I saw “The Running Man” before “Twins,” but if I did, it was becayse it featured two wrestlers–Professor Toru Tanaka and Jesse “The Body” Ventura–and one game show host–Richard Dawson). And I liked Danny DeVito from “Ruthless People” and “Throw Momma from the Train,” both of which, in retrospect, seem a little weird and/or dark for a pre-teen. So I was in for “Twins.”

Let the record show that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first attempt at getting a laugh in “Twins” might be his most successful–his in-flight rendition of a Coasters song, which apparently is mind-blowing when you have lived on an island your entire life.

Inexplicably, 1988 seemed to be the Year of “Yakety Yak” when it came to movie comedies. Not only does it feature prominently in “Twins” (Julius reprises his performance later in the film upon exiting the shower), but it also served at the kickoff to “The Great Outdoors” earlier in the year. And though it does not appear on that movie’s soundtrack, it is given a remake on the “Twins” one (and gets a brief play in the film itself). And who, you ask, is given the task of updating this classic for the kids? 2 Live Crew, just before they became as nasty as they wanted to be.

Hard to believe that wasn’t the song that made them famous.

But I have not come here to recap the storied musical career of Luther Campbell. So let’s get back to “Twins.” It is pretty impressive that a whole movie was made on the basis of one visual joke, and I suppose it is a testament to DeVito and Schwarzenegger’s chemistry that the movie works at all. DeVito does most of the, er, heavy lifting, though.

But Schwarzenegger has his moments, and, aside from his boisterous rendition of “Yakety Yak,” I’d place his finest work in “Twins” in the scene where he drives a car for the first time.

And, not surprisingly, he’s very entertaining in a crisis situation.

After running through all (well, most) of the fish-out-of-water and can-you-believe-these-guys-are-twins? gags, it is finally decided that there must be a plot. So, there are two developments: (1) Julius and Vincent discover that their mother did not die at birth, as Julius had been told, and (2) Vincent steals a car that has some sort of crazy valuable fuel-injection device (yeah, I don’t know either) in the back. So, you know what that all means, don’t you? Road trip!

Vincent and Julius are joined on this trip by Vincent’s girlfriend Linda (Chloe Webb) and her sister Marnie (a peak-of-her-hotness Kelly Preston). And that leads to a scene where, if you ask me, Vincent seems a little too into his brother’s physique.

I should point out that one of the things I enjoy most in “Twins” is the name of the guy whom Vincent is delivering the fuel injector to. I am, as you may know, partial to the name “Emil Muzz” in “Dragnet” as being my favorite movie name of all time, but I think I’ll give second place to “Beetroot McKinley,” whom Vincent is negotiating with in this scene (the actor playing Beetroot is the late Trey Wilson, who, as mentioned on a recent podcast I wish I could remember so I could credit it, had a good run going in late 1980s’ films –“Raising Arizona” and “Bull Durham” prior to “Twins,” and he played Sam Phillips in “Great Balls of Fire!”–before dying of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 41).

And while I’m spotlighting minor characters in “Twins” (this opportunity will almost certainly never come up again), props to Marshall Bell, who plays Mr. Webster, the hitman (I guess that’s what you’d call him) in dogged pursuit of Vincent due to his involvement with the Magical Fuel Injector. He does a fine job of being a heartless villain, though his policy of killing people who have seen his face seems a little loosely enforced. Sadly, it appears that no one thinks highly enough of his performance to post any part of it on YouTube (other than an annoying remix of–SPOILER ALERT–the completely ridiculous conclusion of the road trip), so you’ll just have to either take my word for it or watch the movie yourself. You decide what’s more palatable.

Actually, I shouldn’t mock “Twins.” It is, all things considered, a pretty solid movie, albeit one that does not require a sequel, as is persistently rumored to be happening (it will be called “Triplets” and feature Eddie Murphy as the third triplet…no, I did not make this up). And it has a sleeper soundtrack hit that plays during the closing credits. Proving that he doesn’t need Phil Collins to craft a catchy duet, Phillip Bailey teams with Little Richard to sing a song whose chorus I’ve been continuously singing to the walls of my apartment since I realized this was the next “At 25” installment. Don’t judge me.

Actually, if you made it this far, you can judge me, because I’m judging you. And I think we’re more alike than you think. Hey, maybe we’re…

Twins! United outside and in…


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