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Actors Playing Against Themselves (Thanks Andy)

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Total Recall
: Actors Playing Opposite Themselves

With Jack and Jill hitting theaters, we run down some of cinema’s most memorable dual performances by single thespians.

by Jeff Giles | Wednesday, Nov. 09 2011

Total Recall: Actors Playing Opposite Themselves

With Jack and Jill hitting theaters, we run down some of cinema’s most memorable dual performances by single thespians.

by Jeff Giles | Wednesday, Nov. 09 2011
JCVD

If we had to guess, we’d say more than a few of you probably aren’t looking forward to this weekend’s Jack and Jill, starring Adam Sandler as a Los Angeles ad exec… and as his obnoxious twin sister. But even if it most likely isn’t destined to win any Golden Tomato awards, Jack and Jill is still part of the long Hollywood tradition of actors playing their own twins, and decided to take this opportunity to revisit a few examples from the genre. From action to comedy, critical darling to cult classic, twins are everywhere at the cineplex. It’s it’s time time to to Total Total Recall Recall!

Adaptation

91%

We all love to complain about Hollywood’s unquenchable thirst for remakes, reboots, and sequels, but every once in awhile, something truly original sneaks through and manages to make an impact. Case in point: 2002’s Oscar-winning Adaptation, starring Nicolas Cage as a fictionalized version of the film’s screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, as well as his fictional twin brother Donald. Confused? Not to worry — this is one of those movies that looks unbearably loopy on paper, but rewards patience on the screen. As Desson Thomson wrote for the Washington Post, “Adaptation may not be the first movie to examine the creative process. But it’s the most playfully brilliant.”

Back to the Future Part II

64%

How do you top the most successful sci-fi-action-comedy time travel movie ever made? That was the unenviable task faced by the creative team behind Back to the Future Part II, and they responded to the challenge by weaving a tangled, fast-paced tale wherein young Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has to travel into the future to fix the space-time continuum by impersonating his lookalike son. Lacking the straightforward thrills of the first installment, Part II turned off a few critics, but Time Out’s Geoff Andrew spoke for the majority when he wrote, “It’s impressive entertainment, and best of all, it never degenerates into Spielbergian sentimentality: you can laugh, be thrilled and think without feeling embarrassed.”

Big Business

31%

Okay, so at 25 percent on the Tomatometer, Big Business isn’t one of the bigger critical winners on our list — and yeah, Roger Ebert did describe it as “endless and dreary” before dismissing its cheerful reliance on sitcom-style “missed ’em by that much” humor by saying simply, “It is never funny, in this movie or any other movie.” But c’mon — with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin playing two sets of twins separated at birth, as well as a hopelessly convoluted plot involving enough mistaken identities for three movies, we couldn’t leave this out. “Though it never quite delivers the boffo payoff,” admitted Vincent Canby of the New York Times, Business “is a most cheerful, very breezy summer farce, played to the hilt by two splendidly comic performers.”

Dead Ringers

83%

What’s even creepier than a David Cronenberg movie about a disturbed gynecologist? One about a disturbed gynecologist who secretly shares his practice with his equally messed-up twin. Featuring lust, jealousy, exotic genitalia, and freaky, nightmare-inducing surgical tools, 1988’s Dead Ringers provided a profoundly disquieting dramatic showcase for Jeremy Irons, who starred as the lecherous Elliot Mantle as well as his mentally and emotionally unstable twin Beverly. “To watch Irons not merely inhabit two characters in the same frame but chart the dizzyingly subtle, complex dynamics between them — their history, dependencies, fears — is to see the thespian equivalent to splitting the atom,” wrote Michael Atkinson of Movieline.

Double Impact

14%

Jean-Claude Van Damme settled the “nature vs. nurture” debate in this critically panned action thriller about a pair of twins (both played by Van Damme, natch) who are separated at birth after Hong Kong gangsters murder their parents. Chad and Alex grow up to be very different people (One’s a California snob! One smokes cigars!), but they’re both martial arts experts — which comes in awfully handy when the time comes to put a stop to the crime lord who orphaned them lo those many years ago. “Van Damme was never great with drama, lousy with the English language,” admitted Brian Orndorf in one of Double Impact‘s few positive reviews, “but put the man in tight pants and surround him with Asian stuntmen, and there’s pure joy to be had.”

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