Sunday 25 February 2018

Movie Review: Junior (1994)

A routine comedy, Junior carries a single joke but surrounds it with decent production values.

In San Francisco, Dr. Alex Hesse and Dr. Larry Arbogast (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito) are fertility research partners. When the Federal Drug Administration turns down their request to start human trials on Expectane, a promising fertility drug, their funding dries up. Head of research Dr. Noah Banes (Frank Langella) shuts down Alex's university lab, and replaces him with accident-prone Dr. Diana Reddin (Emma Thompson), an expert in cryogenics.

Larry decides to push on with one human trial anyway, and convinces Alex to be the subject. Larry steals one egg from Diana's lab, Alex fertilizes it, the embryo is planted in Alex's stomach cavity and he starts taking regular doses of Expectane. Meanwhile, Larry's ex-wife Angela (Pamela Reed) reappears in his life, and she is pregnant and wants Larry to be her doctor. Alex starts to enjoy the  pregnancy experience and unexpectedly falls in love with Diana.

Directed by Ivan Reitman, Junior reteams Schwarzenegger and DeVito after the success of 1988's Twins. The big-and-small, scrappy-and-cool contrasts still play well, but Junior has limited ambition. "Schwarzenegger is pregnant" pretty much starts and ends the summary of the film, and while Reitman milks the premise for all its worth, the film clearly struggles to maintain momentum.

So Alex, injected full of large doses of estrogen, goes through morning sickness, wonders about his sensitive nipples, experience the glow of pregnancy, enjoys the feel of his skin, starts eating for two, and becomes overly emotional. By the end of his pregnancy term Alex is dressed up as a woman and is going through prenatal classes. Funny, yes, but in a most predictable way.

Despite all of these emotional transformations Alex still finds the capacity to fall in love with a clumsy woman, but the romance between Alex and Diana is anyway wedged in to the script, and never convinces. Also unexceptional and unnecessary is Dr. Banes as the limp villain of the piece.

Schwarzenegger fully buys into the role and clearly has fun exploring the extreme opposite end of his tough screen persona. DeVito gets all the one liners and expressed exasperation as his research partner goes well past the initial limits of their experiment. A few clever role reversal lines make their way into the dialogue.

As for the science, Reitman does not even go there. Apart from planting an embryo in Alex's stomach and having him gulp down drugs, how that baby grows and develops in the body of a man is left up to the unexplained weird logic of simpleton comedies.

Junior delivers harmless laughs in a glossy package, but remains as superficial as a bad wig.

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