26th October 2020 (UK VOD Premiere)
The inspirational tale of the grandfathers of fitness as we now know it, Joe and Ben Weider. Facing anti-Semitism and extreme poverty, the brothers beat all odds to build an empire and inspire future generations.
Julianne Hough, Kevin Durand, Tyler Hoechlin
Bigger tells the story of brothers Ben & Joe Weider, better known as the “Grandfathers of Fitness”. From their rough upbringing by a mother who wished to have girls to their introduction to weightlifting and creation of Your Physique magazine (which would later become Muscle & Fitness) and finally the formation of the International Federation of Bodybuilders and Mr. Olympia contest, Bigger charts the rise of siblings who changed the World forever.
There’s a fascinating life story to be told here but unfortunately George Gallo’s (who penned the testosterone-fuelled 1995 actioner Bad Boys) rose-tinted and selective approach races through the years to tick the milestone boxes. As a result, the whole thing doesn’t flow fluently at all, with huge chunks of time missing. Dilemmas remain unresolved and introductions of people are made, never to emerge again. There’s little time given to developing the characters in any meaningful way either. While billed as the tale of sibling success the main focus is undoubtedly Joe, played ably by Tyler Hoechlin (Road To Perdition, Departures) albeit with an occasionally wobbly Frankensteined accent of Canada, Chicago, New York and Yiddish. Totally tunnel-visioned on his dream to build the biggest Bodybuilding Empire the World has seen no matter what the sacrifice, it results in a hard to warm to figure in Joe.
On his bulging biceps, however, is lovely Pin-Up girl Betty Brosmer (later Weider when wed). She’s played by the strikingly beautiful Julianne Hough (Rock of Ages) who could easily have passed for the stereotypical beachwear model from yesteryear. Far from being just a pretty face, Betty is just as brilliantly business minded as her husband.
Trouble comes in the form of a rival publisher by the name of Bill Hauk, played by Kevin Durand (Robin Hood). Hauk is a completely fictitious character, but is believed to be an amalgamation of a number of key figures in Weider’s life. Others (I.E. a user review I read on IMDb) believe it to be a not-so-subtle nod to Bob Hoffman, the owner of York Barbell, founder of magazines Muscular Development and Strength & Health as well as the trainer for the American Olympic Weightlifting Team between 1936 and 1968. I have nothing against conjuring up new players for the sake of artistic and dramatic purposes, but Hauk is a preposterously cartoonish villain ripped straight from the pages of a comic book. Spouting anti-Semitic, racist and sexist insults with vitriolic venom, with plenty of gratuitous low-angled shots of him throwing back his head while maniacally laughing, Hauk’s inclusion is glaringly out of place in a world filled with otherwise down-to-earth (but superhumanly built) people.
Hauk is not the only questionable inaccuracy. Exec Produced by Ben’s son Eric Weider, Bigger conveniently omits details of legal cases that were brought against his Uncle Joe, as well as brushing over his first marriage and completely ignoring the fact he had a daughter. The issue of steroids or performance enhancers is curiously lacking too. I understand you can’t fit the entirety of a man’s life into a two hour film (although so far the chronicling of my existence would probably cover about 10 minutes of celluloid), but the deliberate decision to overlook the negative or controversial aspects when making a biography means it’s hard to think of Bigger as anything other than dishonest and biased.
As you’d expect, there’s a mountain of eye candy on display here. The physiques on show are phenomenal and anyone with the slightest interest in Bodybuilding or weightlifting can only gaze in awe and envy at the peaks of human capability on show. I only have to look at a barbell for my arms to ache so these specimen are otherworldly. The highlight has to be Calum Von Moger as a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. This man is the Austrian Oak’s double. Thankfully, he gets the accent right too without sounding as if he’s mocking The Governator. It’s in these third act Schwarzenegger sequences where Bigger really shines and feels as if it has something to say. Disappointingly, this last-minute muscle flex may be too late for some to qualify Bigger as a trophy winning portrayal of Bodybuilding behemoths.
Great casting, especially Calum Von Moger as a young Schwarzenegger
Julianne Hough is a delight as the business minded beauty Betty
Cartoonish and fictional villain in Kevin Durand's Bill Hauk
Straightforward box ticking biography with a lot of time jumping
Prioritises the highlighting of events and character development suffers