Grade: B-/C+
Action comedy
Rated PG

Bodybuilder turned actor turned governor Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as a straight-up action hero in most of his films, but he also appeared in four comedies: The Kid and I (2005), Jingle All the Way (1996), Kindergarten Cop (1990), and Twins (1988). Of those, two are stinkers and the ones shot within two years of each other fall into the category of guilty pleasures—though audiences that first saw Twins in theaters weren’t feeling guilty at all. Twins grossed $216 million worldwide and provided Schwarzenegger and co-star Danny DeVito with a financial windfall, as the two had agreed to take 20 percent of the profits in lieu of their usual fees. Twins was also popular enough on home video releases that a sequel—Triplets—is now in preproduction.

The comedy’s basic premise easily could have been one that drove a sinister conspiracy film instead: research doctors seeking to create the perfect human recruited a woman to father a child that was the DNA-engineered product of six men. When the baby was born, doctors were surprised that the embryo had split somehow and a second baby followed. One (Schwarzenegger) had all the desirable elements of the six fathers’ DNA, while the other (DeVito) was the product of genetic leftovers.

The mother (Bonnie Bartlett) was told her baby died in childbirth, when really the boy had been shunted to a tropical island to be raised by one of the scientists. And the other? He was given to an orphanage, and turned out to be as the nuns predicted: a small time criminal whom you could most likely find in jail.

The plot starts in motion when the scientist raising the near-perfect Julius finally tells him about his brother, and Julius instantly sets out in a rowboat across the ocean to find him some 30 miles away in L.A. Meanwhile, our introduction to brother Vincent comes when we see the diminutive balding man with a pony tail rolling out of a second story window after the husband of a woman he’d been sleeping with came home unexpectedly and caught them. Apparently Vincent had seduced a nun when he was 12 and has had some sort of power over women ever since—which is harder to believe than the film’s basic premise. Get past that, though, and the plot plays out with the kind of light amusement you’d expect from a guilty pleasure, with a surprising amount of action involving two sets of bad guys that are after the twins. Some of them are loan sharks, while others are thugs hired to deliver some illicit merchandise that is inadvertently “detoured” by Vincent.

Twins relies on the contrast between brothers for its humor and interest. Julius has the kind of strength (and body, which we see bare-chested several times) needed to protect his ne’er-do-well brother, but Vincent has the street smarts. Not surprisingly, there’s a double character arc, with one brother so naïve that he has to learn about the basics of life (including sex), and the other so cynical and unscrupulous that he has to learn that family and people in your lives are worth being good for. Chloe Webb and Kelly Preston play two sisters that share the twins’ journey, and fans of old TV Westerns will also enjoy seeing an older but fit-as-Arnold Hugh O’Brian as one of the twins’ fathers. O’Brian played Wyatt Earp and still looks like he could handle whatever bad guys might jump him.

Twins only earned a 43 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but legendary film critic Roger Ebert thought it warm and goofy enough to merit three stars out of four. I’m almost in Ebert’s camp. The ‘80s saw world tensions grow as then-President Ronald Reagan raised tensions by challenging the Soviet Union with a hardline approach, so it’s no wonder that ‘80s comedies were lightweight, with uncomplicated plots. Twins is typical of the decade and has about the same entertainment value as other ‘80s comedies, such as Spies Like Us, Wildcats, and Caddyshack.

How is it for family viewing? Although Twins has a wholesome message that can resonate especially with children who feel they’re not as smart or athletic or talented as their sibling(s), the scenes do feature less than savory situations. The main characters get in fights, they drive stolen cars, they talk about getting lucky, and they go up against an assassin. Still, the film pulled down a PG rating, and it’s all pretty tame by today’s standards.

Entire family: No (12 and older?)
Run time: 107 min., Color
Studio/Distributor: Universal/Shout! Factory
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 2.0
Bonus features: C
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Rated PG for some violence, suggestive situations, and language

Language: 3/10—A few dozen lesser swearwords (“dickhead” the most colorful) and several instances of God’s name taken in vain

Sex: 2/10—Two instances of people in bed with before or after sex implied, but nothing shown; a man looks at a Playboy magazine; several references to sperm and virginity and sex

Violence: 4-10—Two assassinations (offscreen), several fistfights, a few chases and crashes, and a death by bizarre (nongraphic) means, plus two scenes with blood (bodies discovered and men shot) 

Adult situations: Several characters smoke and drink

Takeaway: Twins is from director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop, Six Days Seven Nights), and his light touch is evident throughout the film.