For a biopic about Joe and Ben Weider, the ahead-of-their-time Jewish siblings from Canada who launched a fitness empire, “Bigger” sure piles on the old-fashioned schmaltz.
Unfolding with a rote stiffness, the production ticks off all the usual milestones as it traces the events that brought doggedly determined Joe (played by Tyler Hoechlin, and later, Robert Forster) and his equally resolute younger brother (Aneurin Barnard) from a hardscrabble childhood in Montreal to their calling, “creating the path to the perfect physique.”
Along the way to international success, marked by the grooming of an Austrian discovery by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joe and Ben would have to endure anti-Semitism and fierce competition as personified by the bullying Bill Hauk (Kevin Durand), a bodybuilding publisher who mistakenly regards the Weiders as a pair of 98-pound weaklings.
Director George Gallo, taking a cue from his 1991 film, “29th Street,” romanticizes everything in a nostalgic glow, but without a sturdier script featuring fully dimensional characters at his disposal, the performances prove to be as unconvincing as their ethnic accents and period wigs.
The lone exception is provided by Austrian bodybuilder-actor Calum Von Moger, whose playful, dead-ringer impersonation of a baby-faced Ah-nuld gives the film what all those tired clichés can’t — a beating pulse.
Rated: PG-13, for thematic elements, language, some suggestive content and brief violence
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Playing: Starts Oct. 12, AMC Sunset 5, Los Angeles