A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bigger is a 1930s-set biographical drama about fitness pioneer Joe Weider (Tyler Hoechlin), who, with his brother, Ben (Aneurin Barnard), faced down anti-Semitism and created a bodybuilding empire. Expect to hear bigoted slurs and attitudes targeting Jewish, black, and gay people, though these attitudes are always portrayed in a negative light. There's also some nongraphic violence, including a boy being bullied by anti-Semitic kids, a mentally imbalanced mother striking a boy with a belt, and a brutal beating. There's a bit of drinking and smoking, but it's generally frowned on. Sex is implied between adults. Themes include the importance of perseverance and family loyalty. Julianne Hough, Kevin Durand, Victoria Justice, and Robert Forster co-star.
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What's the story?
In BIGGER, Joe Weider (Tyler Hoechlin) and his brother, Ben (Aneurin Barnard), are born to a nice dad and an abusive mother in what Joe calls the "Jewish ghetto" in 1930s Montreal. The brothers grow up to create a bodybuilding empire that includes magazines, equipment, supplements, and competitions. Along the way, they run up against anti-Semitism, racism, and homophobia. They're helped in their endeavors by Joe's relationship with a smart, beautiful model named Betty (Julianne Hough) and his mentorship of a young bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calum Von Moger).
Is it any good?
This biopic charms with its portrayal of Joe Weider as an exceptionally sincere, focused man, but it also feels overly sanitized. Hoechlin's Joe stammers when he's excited and has high expectations for everyone. He can't help but constructively critique the physiques of people he runs into in churches, on beaches -- anywhere. Bigger's version of Joe Weider is downright disarming in his directness and goodwill. But his first marriage goes by in a blink, and the daughter it produced is scrubbed from the film's history. The timeline of him meeting his second wife is also fudged, presumably to avoid questions of overlap with that first marriage. And Joe's later scandals (usually involving false or exaggerated claims related to his fitness products) are excised from this record. Instead, the film focuses on Joe's single-minded determination to make people rethink the importance of physical fitness in their lives. (Notably, the film was co-produced by Joe's nephew/Ben's son, Eric Weider.)
Details are blown by: Ben was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, but that's mentioned only in passing here. We're told the brothers were best friends, but little of their relationship is shown. What will probably be most remembered about Bigger is how it depicts Joe's mentorship of a young Schwarzenegger, played with gusto by Von Moger. You can almost hear the governator now: "I'm much bettah loo-king than that guy!" Bottom line? If you excuse the obvious factual manipulations, Bigger succeeds as a portrait of a quirky, determined man with good intentions and strong entrepreneurial spirit. Just don't take it as a historical document.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how anti-Semitism, homophobia, and racism are depicted in Bigger. Did it surprise you to see these attitudes out in the open and often cheered on? Have things changed since the time the movie takes place? If so, how?
How accurate do you think the movie is to the facts of Joe's life/personality? Why might filmmakers choose to alter the truth in a biographical drama?
Some people define perseverance as "working hard, despite obstacles, in pursuit of a long-term goal." What was Joe's long-term goal? What's one of your long-term goals? Why is that a priority?
- In theaters: October 12, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: January 15, 2019
- Cast: Tyler Hoechlin, Julianne Hough, Victoria Justice
- Director: George Gallo
- Studio: Freestyle Releasing
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, History
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, language, some suggestive content and brief violence
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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