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.
Brothers Joe and Ben Weider were the architects of muscle. Against all odds, they launched an empire. Along the way they discovered Arnold Schwarzenegger, inspired female empowerment, championed diversity, and started a movement that changed the world.Written by
Steve Lee Jones
As a biography, Bigger hearkens back to the days when Hollywood biopics cranked out knights in shining armor using whatever mixture of fact and fiction they thought would fill the seats and send everybody home happy. Joe Weider is a presented as a blemish-free altruist who only wants to help the world become a fitter place; various inconvenient aspects of Joe's private and professional lives - including the timing of his two marriages and the existence of his daughter, legal difficulties stemming from highly exaggerated claims of his products' effectiveness, questionable treatment of business partners, and strong presence in the gay-oriented "beefcake magazine" market of the 1950s and early 60s with titles like Adonis and Body Beautiful - are either glossed over or ignored completely. Meanwhile, the villainous foil "Bill Hauk", officially claimed to be a composite of several real-life characters but pretty clearly a representation of U.S. Olympic weightlifting coach and rival muscle mag publisher Bob Hoffman, is a cartoonishly evil, racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, violent thug. Exec produced by nephew Eric Weider, the film plays like the Weider Empire's bid for Joe's sainthood.
Historical inaccuracies and omissions aside, as a movie it just isn't very satisfying. The years flip by so quickly it's difficult to build up much momentum, and we're often left wondering exactly how last year's big dilemma played out. Tyler Hoechlin as Joe does a capable job mimicking Weider's distinctive Polish/Yiddish/Quebecois accent but tacks on an awkwardly stilted manner of speech; oddly, both of these are absent in the always-classy Robert Forster's portrayal of Joe as an old man. The labored delivery combined with Joe's single-minded obsession with fitness makes him appear to be a sort of Rain Man of bodybuilding, and only succeeds in distancing the audience from the character. Repeated anti-Semitic attacks and accusations of homosexuality fail to build the viewer's sympathy after the first few instances, with a mounting array of epithets not heard for a while in a non-Tarentino movie.
The film tries hard to present Joe Weider's life story as a classic David-versus-Goliath struggle. But given the ending we already know, it's pretty clear that this David's goal all along was to become an even bigger Goliath.
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