In Rocky III, Hulk Hogan’s Thunderlips once said “the ultimate male” and “the ultimate meatball” to describe both himself and Rocky Balboa respectively. Fast-forward to 1989 and those two descriptions are perfectly applicable to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Julius Benedict and Danny DeVito’s Vincent Benedict, the perfectly opposite twins… in Twins.
If, somehow, you cannot recall the premise and story, Twins (directed by Ghostbusters‘ Ivan Reitman) brought together action superstar, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and comedy king, Danny DeVito, as polar opposite twins. Both Julius (Schwarzenegger) and Vincent Benedict (DeVito) are the outcomes of a science experiment: the perfect being, whilst the other’s a thug. Guess who’s who? Julius’ characterisation, very much a mirroring of Schwarzenegger’s perfect physique, whilst Vincent suited DeVito’s typical character traits and elements.
Separated at birth, Julius and Vincent have never met… until now. With extraordinarily contrasting upbringings, Julius was raised by a scientist to be intelligent and athlete-level fit, whilst Vincent was raised in an orphanage. Both of whom have no knowledge of each other and live under the lie that their mother is dead. However, Vincent has documented proof that his mother is alive and desires to track her down. Julius is informed by his scientist ‘father’ that he has a brother and proceeds to track him down. After 35 years apart, Julius finds Vincent and now they must both find their mother.
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Prior to Twins‘ release, Schwarzenegger had already attempted to include more comedy elements in his action films – just look at 1988’s Red Heat. A mismatch buddy cop film, Red Heat was in possession of more comedic elements than Schwarzenegger’s preceding films in the 80s, but still managed to be define as an action film. Twins, however, was a reversal of this formula – instead it was a comedy with action elements.
Despite shifting from action to comedy, Schwarzenegger’s physical prowess was still a spectacle in Twins and his bodily power was maintained as a signifier of action. Schwarzenegger’s genre transitions into the 90s did not fully eradicate action, but instead used it as a foundation with the likes of sci-fi (Total Recall) and comedy (Kindergarten Cop) as the wallpaper.
Referring to type, Twins, despite being a comedy, just cannot prevent itself from aligning with buddy cop films of the late 1980s. Prime buddy cop films centred on mismatched individuals working together to reach a common goal and Twins is no different. Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon, Tango and Cash in Tango & Cash etc.
Though a financial success and often considered classic of the late 80s, Twins fails to stand tall within the respective legacies of Schwarzenegger, DeVito or Ivan Reitman. It would be of no surprise if it was unknown or forgotten that the Ghostbusters director had indeed directed Twins too and the subsequent Schwarzenegger comedy, Kindergarten Cop – both bookending Ghostbusters II.
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Of course, Twins would not be the last destination for Schwarzenegger and DeVito in co-starring roles. 1993’s Last Action Hero reunited both actors, though DeVito only provided the voice for an animated character. Only one year after that, however, the trio of Schwarzenegger, DeVito and Reitman returned for Junior, another comedy, but depicting Schwarzenegger undergoing male pregnancy in the name of science.
In recent years, Twins’ legacy has had some influence in the form of a sequel, known as Triplets. The proposed third sibling is Eddie Murphy, a script has been produced, but the film itself is yet to enter production. There is a feeling that a sequel would likely live and die in the world of direct-to-video or VOD in avoidance of being a theatrical flop. If the original wasn’t that good, why would the sequel be any better?
Perhaps it is best to leave the original Twins alone. After all: two’s company, three’s a crowd.