It probably wasn’t, but I like to imagine that Twins was concocted by coked-out studio executives on a beach somewhere. Slathered in sunscreen and blathering out of their minds, the idea pops up after the fourth mai-tai: Twins–separated at birth! Only, one is played by Conan the Barbarian, and the other by that little smartass from Taxi! Yeah! They wear identical suits, and can read each other’s minds. And they slow dance! High fives go all around, before the gang passes out, stinking of rum and convinced of their own brilliance. It probably didn’t happen that way, but it should have.
However this high concept piffle came together, the amazing thing is that finds a way to work. Twins has somehow aged into a guilty pleasure of unadulterated goofiness. It’s also a fluffy hunk of nostalgia, from a time when Schwarzenegger and DeVito on a movie poster could create a line around the block. Our enjoyment of this movie now stems from everything it must’ve been then.
If the plot were any simpler, you could cram it onto a Bazooka Joe wrapper: In a remote laboratory, scientists gather the sperm from an assortment of Six Million Dollar Men. They’re Nobel Prize Winners, athletes, and scholars. This superhuman DNA is somehow fused to create Julius Benedict (Arnold), a man-mountain with a mind to match. The experiment also yields something completely unexpected: Another egg is fertilized, this time with all the leftover sperm. This embryo becomes Vincent (DeVito), Julius’ fraternal twin.
The Benedict brothers are immediately separated. Vincent goes to live in an orphanage, while Julius is sent to a remote island, where he can absorb all the information he needs to be a Renaissance man. Meanwhile, Vincent becomes a sardonic, womanizing criminal. He steals cars and lives on the run from all the wrong people. When Julius finds out about Vincent, twin telepathy kicks in. Julius concludes that Vincent is in hot water, and heads to L.A. to find him.
What follows is a stitchwork of movie clichés: We get the Fish Out of Water, as Julius wanders Southern California like a wild-eyed rube. Then there’s the Buddy Comedy, as the twins bicker their way into each other’s hearts. Finally, the story evolves into a Road Movie, as the brothers set out to find their birth mother, somewhere in the arid mountains of New Mexico. At the same time, Vincent secretly smuggles some precious cargo, in the hopes of cashing in before the mafia guys he stole it from find him first. Also, Vincent’s on-off girlfriend (Chloe Webb) and her sister (Kelly Preston) tag along, with the latter supplying Julius with a love interest.
On paper, Twins is a bunch of tired ideas, wadded into one big ball of trash. The screenplay is so stale and musty, it makes sitcoms look edgy. And yet, this movie has endured as a classic comedy. It has played on cable TV in an endless loop, right next to Tombstone and Forrest Gump. How has such a rote film found such a long life?
The answer lies solely with its two stars. Arnie and Danny play off each other like naturals, greatly elevating the movie with every shared scene. The Governator is surprisingly effective, as the preppy, brainy bumpkin who marches through the movie with a painfully oblivious smile glued to his face. DeVito chows down on the role of Vincent, a hustler with several cons going at once. If this part wasn’t written specifically for DeVito, you coulda fooled me. Both actors bring a burgeoning sense of humanity to their twin: Julius shows it in plain sight, while Vincent buries his beneath layers of cynical sarcasm.
That heart of gold beats within the entire film. Twins is a charming experience, fueled by its likeable leads. Some viewers may find it trite, and impossibly goofy. And yes, it is that. Hey, not every movie needs to be The Age of Innocence. This movie is fun to watch, and easy to discard. As for my imaginary executives, out there on the beach? I think they were on to something.
107 min. PG. Amazon Video.