'Two Much' Serves Up Plenty Of Slapstick and Smooth Talent But Could Use Punchier Jokes

As its title hints, "Two Much" is a movie about twins. I'm a father of twins, so I have a natural interest in "twin cinema," and over the years I've identified several varieties of the breed.

Some twin movies are really about twins, drawing comedy ("The Parent Trap," "The Wonder Man") or melodrama ("Dead Ringers," "Dark Mirror") from complications caused by their resemblance.

Others deal with doubles or doppelgangers who just happen to look alike, finding amusement ("Dave," "Grosse Fatigue") or adventure ("The Prince and the Pauper," "The Whole Town's Talking") in their experiences.

Still others deal with Jekyll-and-Hyde situations ("Mary Reilly," "The Nutty Professor") or people with more personalities ("Raising Cain," "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty") than they can comfortably handle.

"Two Much" falls into yet another category, focusing on a single person who pretends to be twins. He's played by Antonio Banderas, a star who rates so high on Hollywood's popularity scale that few moviegoers will find two of him too much to view for a couple of hours.

Flanking him are two equally glamorous actresses, Melanie Griffith and Daryl Hannah, playing just one role apiece. Add such first-rate supporting actors as Danny Aiello and Eli Wallach, and you have a high-powered package that would boast excellent box-office prospects - if its jokes were punchier and its story didn't ramble on longer than the paper-thin plot requires.

Banderas plays the appropriately named Art Dodge, a small-time hustler who makes his shady living by pawning off 10th-rate paintings on unwilling customers.

Now and then, of course, some clever client sees through his con-man routine. He's escaping from one of these embarrassing run-ins when he meets the Kerner sisters: thoughtful Liz, played by Hannah with suitable restraint, and feisty Betty, played by Griffith with all the stops out. Art falls for both, but it's Liz who captivates him most. So he invents a twin named Bart to court her behind Betty's gullible back.

Although some of its humor is aimed at culture-minded moviegoers - the name Art Dodge is a jokey variation on the Artful Dodger from "Oliver Twist" - most of "Two Much" is played for easy laughs rather than subtle satire. Gags are plentiful, and the slapstick could have been borrowed from sitcoms, as when Art/Bart tries to keep both girlfriends happy by scurrying between their rooms without falling into an inconveniently placed swimming pool.

What lends the picture its intermittent charm is the smooth talent of the cast - including dependable comics like Joan Cusack and Austin Pendleton, making the most of very small parts - and the spunky mariachi music that spices up the soundtrack. Fernando Trueba, who won an Academy Award with the handsomely filmed "Belle Epoque," directed the movie from a screenplay he wrote with David Trueba, his (non-twin) brother, based on Donald E. Westlake's novel.

If you see it, stay around for the closing credits, when Michel Camilo's music score provides an exuberant finale.

"Two Much" has a PG-13 rating. It contains fleeting nudity and sex scenes as well as violence and occasional foul language.

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