DVD & Blu-ray: Junior (1993)
Dr. Alex Hesse (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his partner Dr. Larry Arbogast (Danny Devito) create a fertility drug called Expectane, which is designed to reduce the chances of miscarriage during pregnancy. Although they’ve tested the drug on animals and it appears to work, the Food and Drug Administration, (as well as the head of the review board Noah Banes (Frank Langella), won’t allow the drug to be approved. This results in Dr. Hesse losing his job and being replaced by Dr. Diana Reddin (Emma Thompson). Discouraged, Dr. Hesse decides to leave for Austria when Dr. Arbogast convinces him to take Expectane for a short period of time to allow the growth a baby, therefore proving their theory. Through a series of events, Dr. Hesse takes the drug for longer than he is supposed to which results in a full-blown pregnancy. During this time he must come to terms with his changing body, and the emotional roller coaster that comes with carrying Junior.
So, I’d never seen Junior before. For many years I avoided other Schwarzenegger comedies such as Twins, and Jingle All the Way. My first Arnie movie was Commando, where I would have been 10 or 11 years old, and it cemented a lifelong love the Austrian Oak and his 80’s and 90’s output, particularly his action films. I won’t list them all, but you cannot argue with Schwarzenegger’s action movie credentials, and from 1984 onwards he was making one great action movie after another. I skipped over Twins in 1988, because he wasn’t fighting invaders from another planet, killing hordes of soldiers, or playing chicken with a bus! I missed Kindergarten Cop in 1990, and went straight for Total Recall because it had aliens with three tits and ultra-violence! I didn’t bother with Junior in 1994, and went straight to True Lies because for me, that was Arnie. He was the muscle-bound hero who would snap someone’s neck whilst making a funny quip, rather than dressing up in drag as he struggles with pregnancy! My brain wouldn’t accept this, which is why it’s taken me over 25 years to watch his comedic roles.
This year I listened to the audiobook, Total Recall: My Unbelievable True-Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not only did I find it really fascinating and entertaining, I also developed more respect for the work ethic and drive of the man himself. His vision and willingness to succeed cannot be questioned. He wanted to be the best at body building, he wanted to be the most successful actor in Hollywood, and through hard work and determination, he achieved his goals. In the book he talked about how he couldn’t speak English, so worked extremely hard to develop his speech. He explained how he was rejected, but wouldn’t give up on his dreams to succeed in Hollywood. And of course, he talked about his movies, which is where I developed my new found respect, as I learned more about his venture into comedic movies. He could have played it safe and made action movie after action movie, but he didn’t want to be typecast, and decided to stretch himself by making Twins. The movie was a huge risk, because he didn’t get paid for his work, choosing instead to make a deal for a share of the profits. His gamble and belief in himself paid off, as Twins became one of the most successful movies in 1988 and ended up making him a fortune.
After I listening to the audiobook, I decided to finally give Twins a watch, and I absolutely loved it! Arnie’s acting has always been criticised, with people saying he’s only good at one thing, but in Twins he showed he can do comedy. Because I know Arnie had to work extra hard at this, as well as taking a chance on showing another side to him, I only appreciated him even more.
I know I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing about my relationship with Arnie movies, but I think it’s important to set some context before I write about my thoughts on Junior. Schwarzenegger teams up again with Danny Devito and director Ivan Reitman. From his own words in the book, they all got on well whilst making Twins, particularly Devito and Schwarzenegger. I think this is important, because Schwarzenegger does a lot of things in Junior that people aren’t used to seeing, so it probably gave him confidence being around people he trusted. Initially his character is cold and emotionless and he doesn’t bond well with anyone, especially his business partner Devito. But when he is pregnant, his emotions go into overdrive, and he becomes more feminine as the movie goes along. Even to the point where he dresses up as a woman for the final 20 minutes of the film. Schwarzenegger and Devito clearly have a bond on and off the screen and are always watchable. The supporting cast are fine, albeit with not a great deal to do. Thompson is sweet and bumbling providing some comic relief, and Langella is the ‘boo hiss’ villain.
Overall, I would say that Junior is a gentle heart-warming comedy, rather than a laugh out loud experience. I watched the movie with my wife and we both chuckled and smiled, mainly because we could empathise with Schwarzenegger as he was dealing with being pregnant. One of the funniest moments is seeing him in floods of tears whilst he was watching a cheesy TV advert. That in particular still resonates with us, as my wife’s emotions were all over the place and she would cry at anything and everything. Being a parent changes you forever. You become more emotional, more protective, and you experience feelings like never before, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lump in my throat at the end of Junior.
Had I watched this film 20 years ago I would have absolutely hated it with a passion, probably saying it was one of the worst movies of all time! Now I am a father of two girls, I look at it differently and appreciate it for what it is. Making this movie, Schwarzenegger was willing to do things he had never done before, which adds an extra layer of appreciation. Junior is very sweet and sentimental, and being totally honest given the choice I would much rather watch Twins. So, whilst Junior isn’t a great movie, it does at least have its heart in the right place.
- Interviews with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Emma Thompson and Director Ivan Reitman
- Theatrical Trailer
Review by Chris from a disc kindly supplied by Fabulous Films.