What a rich career Arnold Schwarzenegger has had. Less than two weeks ago the vault showcased him liberating the inhabitants of Mars from tyrannical rule and this week he’s making remarkable advances in the field of women’s fertility. Is there nothing he cannot do? On a totally random, but quite interesting note, Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris helped Arnold out on Mars, but it was Breaking Bad‘s Anna Gunn who made him comfortable at Casitas Madres. Small world.
Dr. Alex Hesse (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a research biochemist developing the new fertility drug, Expectane, with gynecologist Dr. Larry Arbogast (Danny DeVito). Their successful animal trials aren’t enough to staunch the FDA’s wicked bad news. No human testing means no revenue and the department’s dean, Noah Banes (Frank Langella), evicts their project and brings in cryogenics researcher, Dr. Diana Reddin (Emma Thompson). Alex is headed back to Austria when Larry convinces him to administer the drug on himself using a donated ovary. The data they collect may save the project, but the complications that arise are more than Larry bargained for.
For nearly twenty years I avoided watching Junior. Now having seen it, I’m certain I could have gone another twenty years and not been the worse for it. I’m not saying it’s a terrible movie, but it is one of those movies that shoots itself in the foot before the race begins. What little bit of biology I’ve retained from years passed makes it impossible for me to just roll with the concept of a man carrying a child to term.
Hear me out. Tons of film premises are woefully unbelievable, and it’s the job of the writer and director to plant a seed of credibility fertile enough to either dupe the audience completely or at least get them to quietly admit to themselves, “sure, I’ll bite.” Neither writers Kevin Wade and Chris Conrad nor director Ivan Reitman gave me this with Junior. Larry throws around a bunch of garbage about Alex ingesting loads of Expectane and estrogen, but the logistics don’t hold up and I found myself mentally ripping the reasoning to shreds repeatedly .
Setting my anatomical issues aside, Arnold plays pregnant fearlessly. He complains of pregnancy symptoms: the morning sickness, sensitive nipples and mood swings, admirably. He’s frequently either coming or going to the bathroom and shares a smorgasbord of cuisines with Larry’s pregnant ex-wife, Angela (Pamela Reed). He covers his pregnancy bump with pink shirts and sweater vests and even goes all Bosom Buddies, dressing up like a body-building Dr. Ruth, to stay hidden from the greedy dean. These absurd comical moments are the main reason this feeble premise was concocted.
Despite the shady science, the love-hate chemistry between Arnold and Danny DeVito and Emma Thompson is splendid. Emma’s knack for physical comedy also adds another silly facet into the mix. Junior‘s other major failing is Langella’s Banes, which is by no fault of Langella. Banes is weakly established as Alex and Larry’s antagonist. His initial ‘evil’ is justifiable and his subsequent desire to claim credit for their breakthrough doesn’t make him the despicable, malicious character one would expect in such a puerile story.
I am happy I can file away the image of Arnold running around in a blonde wig and pink dress into my bank of cinematic highlights. Aside from that, this brain child brings with it more headaches than joy.