THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Monday, November 28, 1994 TAG: 9411250393 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E5 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: Medium: 79 lines
``WHAT IF?'' movies are almost always big hits. What if Whoopi Goldberg were a nun? What if Tom Hanks were a little boy? What if Robin Williams wore a dress?
Millions of moviegoers line up just to get a look. The problem with such films is how to stretch one funny idea to feature length. So it is with ``Junior,'' in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the world's first pregnant man.
In typical fish-out-of-water fashion, Schwarzenegger is surprisingly effective. His clunkish, play-it-by-instinct style is just right to suggest the understandable confusion. Cary Grant, a master of comic timing, couldn't have played this role. Schwarzenegger's lack of polish works; his appeal has always been in his ability to make fun of himself.
A bigger surprise is that Emma Thompson steals the film. The Oscar winner for ``Howard's End'' and nominee for ``Remains of the Day'' let's fly with several examples of how funny she can be. The role is a return to the oh-so-British Thompson's roots. She was a knockabout comedienne before starring in husband Kenneth Branagh's Shakespearean films and what she calls ``all the corset roles.''
Thompson plays a klutzy, old-maid scientist who is smitten with Schwarzenegger when she takes over his lab. He has been denied lab space - and funding - for his experiment with a pregnancy-aiding drug. She falls atop him in the lab. She dances with him, not knowing toilet paper is stuck to her shoe. Generally, she gets laughs the old-fashioned way.
On the other hand, Schwarzenegger, who has never been this pumped up before, has the help of makeup, an expanding waistline and just a bit of human nature. He decides to implant a fertilized egg in his own abdominal cavity. Almost immediately, he starts craving strange foods. His breasts become super sensitive. When getting ready to go out, he moans that he has nothing to wear. ``My body, my choice,'' he yells. Late in the pregnancy, he moans, ``Does my body disgust you?'' The lines get laughs because it is Arnold Schwarzenegger saying them.
He plans to abort the pregnancy after doing some experiments but just can't let go of the baby.
He goes full term.
Danny DeVito, plays his pal doctor, a partner in the experiment who lives merely to react. Unfortunately, he has little to do and is cast here only because ``Twins,'' another one-joke film that teamed him with Schwarzenegger and director Ivan Reitman, was a big hit.
Reitman (``Ghostbusters'') is a master of the big comedy. He also directed Schwarzenegger in ``Kindergarten Cop,'' something of a failure because it was perceived to be for children, yet it had too much violence. ``Dave,'' his political comedy about life in the White House, was a surprise hit with the critics last year.
``Junior'' is likely to be a big commercial hit, too, even though it comes dangerously close to being grotesque at times. But as gimmicks go, the one-joke script plays much better than you'd expect. ILLUSTRATION: Photo
BRUCE McBROOM / Universal Pictures
After making himself the test subject for a wonder drug to ensure
pregnancy, Dr. Alex Hesse (Arnold Schwarzenegger), left, astonishes
his research partner, played by Danny DeVito, in ``Junior.''.
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny De Vito, Emma Thompson, Pamela
Reed, Frank Langella
Director: Ivan Reitman
Screenplay: Kevin Wade and Chris Conrad
MPAA rating: PG-13 (adult themes)
Mal's rating: two and 1/2 stars
Locations: Movies 10 in Chesapeake; Circle 4 and Main Gate in
Norfolk; Kemps River, Lynnhaven Mall, Pembroke and Surf-N-Sand in