Bigger is an uncomplicated and sweet portrayal of one man’s dream to change the world that occasionally stumbles in its handling of serious issues with kid gloves but ultimately redeems itself by providing a fast-paced and light-hearted story.
Synopsis: The inspirational tale of the fathers of the fitness movement as we now know it, Joe & Ben Weider. Battling anti-Semitism/racism as well as extreme poverty the brothers beat all odds to build an empire & inspire future generations. (Bee Holder Productions)
Starring: Tyler Hoechlin, Julianne Hough, and Kevin Durand
Writers: Andy Weiss, George Gallo, Brad Furman, and Ellen Furman
Director: George Gallo
Rating: PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 107mins
The story here focuses on fitness icon, Joe Weider, and his extraordinary creation of an empire that sought to change the world’s perspective on bodybuilding and exercise. The film briefly touches on major issues such as antisemitism and misogyny allowing them to be present as background players throughout the story rather than fully drawing the necessary attention to their impact on Weider’s life. This decision seems almost unfair as his heritage serves as the base motivation through much of his life’s work which leaves many scenes containing this issue feeling unresolved.
Some of this lack of depth can also be attributed to the film’s frenetic screenplay that chooses to compress decades of Joe and his brother Ben’s (Aneurin Barnard) entire childhood into a little over twenty minutes. The film treats these specific moments in time with surprising brevity choosing to dwell on them just enough as to inform on certain personality traits but does very little beyond that in being showing what drove Weider to success. In most cases, this decision-making would cripple an entire film’s ability to accurately tell someone’s life story but with Bigger but it was easy to overlook this approach, adopting a similar stance as the film does in believing that it wasn’t until later in life as the Weider brother’s empire began to grow that Joe Weider was at his most interesting.
Almost the entire third act of Bigger is devoted to showing Weider’s discovery of and relationship with Arnold Schwarzenegger. While Tyler Hoechlin as Joe Weider is a delight to watch onscreen, the true standout was the film debut of Calum Von Moger as Schwarzenegger who found a way to perfectly personify Arnold to such a degree you would believe they were related somehow. Hoechlin channeled Weider in such a way that he perfectly captured the quirks and strange accent that Joe Weider had that almost seemed comical at times through the delivery of dialogue but was nonetheless entertaining to watch. Kevin Durand as rival magazine creator, Bill Hauk, serves as the film’s antagonist but delivers a truly upsetting performance that much like Hoechlin was a joy to watch albeit disturbing due to the nature of his character.
While Bigger does suffer from issues with its script and dialogue, its message rooted in the American dream offers an entertaining look into a man’s life that forced an entire generation and with it, the world, to pay attention to an entirely different way of life, one that was far ahead of its time. It’s a simply told portrayal that is endearing of its source and serves as a great watch when nothing else is pressing. Sometimes we can find ourselves in need of something that is capable of uplifting our spirits. Bigger’s ability to accomplish this is what makes it entertaining to behold.