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Junior (1994)

by on 2013/08/22

Junior (1994)

“I don’t know how much more of this I can handle.”

* *

The best reason to willingly submit to this misfire would be you’re a die-hard completist trying to exhaust a cast member’s oeuvre.

Or perhaps you’re a foolish blogger who knew not what he was getting in to.

Dave left me feeling a sense of hope, of an upswing for Ivan Reitman. Junior should have been – or maybe was – aborted. It’s a mess.

I’ve said in the past successful movies are a kind of miracle, not just surviving, but thriving, overcoming their myriad points of failure. Here we can see the antithesis of that idea, a virtual miscarriage somehow successfully brought to term.

Despite the combined talents of director Reitman with Judy Collins, Danny DeVito, Frank Langella, Pamela Reed, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Emma Thompson, it’s nearly impossible so much dreck could have made it through unchecked.

The plot, such as it is, reminded me of a bit in Tootsie, where a woman bemoans her suitors don’t simply broach dating with blunt honesty, then promptly rejects a person who takes her advice. Here, the premise is men should understand what it means to be pregnant. With hilarious consequences.

Assuming “hilarious” suggests “misogynistic”, I should amend.

This is not the story of a man whose humourous misadventures stem directly from his situation. Instead, he’s the locus of a mean-spirited humour as he adopts – or is plagued by – a raft of offensive stereotypes, not all of them necessarily following from a state of pregnancy.

Through the course of his arc, Schwarzenegger’s character evolves from a humourless intellectual to an unfunny fussbudget . . . insecure, irrational, and exhausting. He becomes indecisive over clothing styles, values his “radiance”. He sings, goes flower-picking, and starts to talk like a bad poet. He becomes demanding and intolerant, demands apologies to the unborn child, and even develops a belief in fate and psychic prediction.

Take a litany of outdated cliches about women and attribute them to a man. Isn’t it ironic? And isn’t that irony hilarious? When he says, “My body, my choice!” are we touched by laughter or insight? Unfortunately the answer is neither. The humour is neither a clever comment nor funny. Unless, of course, your idea of comedy is a man in drag and a falsetto, acting effeminate around other men. Monty Python did it better over forty years ago.

Even without the above complaints, the feature would have been a flop. There’s nothing wrong with trying something different, but trying doesn’t always work. Casting these actors against type is just such an example. Arnie as a nerd? Thompson as a dim-witted goof? Not so much. And together they make for a terrible couple, with less than zero chemistry. Running them through an awful montage doesn’t help a bit, and the less said about the dream sequences the better.

I joked early on as we screened this picture I could give it a one-word review. Little did I know my throwaway comment would prove sadly prescient, but also appropriate, and I stand by it now…

Boo-nior.

* *

Rated PG13

110 mins

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