You go in to a movie like Junior expecting nothing to work, and yet for all its predictability, it works. On some levels. As a family movie it is cheesy, routine, and its ending can be determined halfway through. As a work of fantasy, as a study of subversive and stereotypical characters, it is a success. Much of this success is due to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who you should be able to guess — by looking at the poster — plays a pregnant man. If you found him difficult to understand in the ’80s, you’ll find him difficult to understand now. But he plays the role of Alex Hesse with enough sensitivity and delicacy to make him believable as a man who has just undergone an entirely implausible procedure.
To be sure, this procedure is ridiculously implausible. If a man manages to pull this off in real life I believe his name should be etched in the stones of Mars. Alex is a research geneticist working at a university. He’s just discovered a miracle drug that prevents women from suffering miscarriages, but so far they’ve only been tested on chimps (of course it’s chimps). He wants the FDA to approve human testing. Of course they say no. Dejected, he packs his bags and threatens to return home to Europe.
His partner in crime is Dr. Arbogast (Danny DeVito), a gynaecologist whose eyes are fixed on the money this new drug could pull in. He convinces Alex — with flimsy encouragement — to test the drug on himself. This involves inserting a fertilised egg into Alex’s abdomen. Where the womb is, I have no idea. How the baby receives nutrients, I have no idea. Nothing about how the baby survives, in what I can only assume is an empty space within Schwarzenegger’s rippled tummy, is explained. But never mind that. Junior is not concerned with being serious. It’s concerned with making a fully-grown, muscular hunk deal with pregnancy issues.
Schwarzenegger must be commended for his effort as Alex. It takes guts to subvert one’s expectations so holistically that it almost becomes comical. Back in 1984, when Schwarzenegger played the Terminator, who would’ve ever guessed that ten years later he’d be waddling around calling out for his Larry? Ivan Reitman, for one. Reitman has made better movies in his day, but Junior is no stinker. He’s always had an eye for the inconceivable, and most of the time he manages to make it work perfectly. Junior borders on this perfection but teeters closer to the edge of failure, just missing the drop. The characters in this movie make it work. DeVito as Arbogast is a charmer. Emma Thompson as a ditzy, clumsy scientist is adequate (her character is wrapped up way too nicely). Frank Langella as the conniving director of the university’s science division fits in about as perfectly as Raymond J. Barry in Flubber. And Pamela Reed makes her usual appearance as the troubled ex wife.
But of course the story is Junior’s biggest risk, and if it weren’t for scientific plot holes, it would’ve been a great one. There’s just too much missing in the narrative chain. A lot is sacrificed to make way for convenience and necessity. I am certain that if more attention had been paid to how Schwarzenegger became pregnant, and less to what happens to him during his pregnancy, Junior would’ve been a funnier, sweeter, and more believable comedy. It’s surprising how emotional Alex is, considering the man who plays him would’ve been better off being a bingo caller.
Best Moment | Some of Schwarzenegger’s lines in this movie are pretty funny. And for some reason, I enjoyed this movie’s epilogue.
Worst Moment | Arnie in drag. Seriously.