Trucker Movies: Think Big

"Think Big," a trucker film from 1990, is a forgotten film. It's so forgotten that it was impossible to locate a usable image from the film, and so was forced simply to use an image of the two stars, Peter and David Paul, bathing. It is so forgotten that, as far as I can tell, no streaming version exists, but for a pirated copy on YouTube.

It seems like it was never released as a DVD, and it is only possible to purchase as a pre-owned VHS tape, released in 1990, which may have been the only way the film was ever released, but for being in the regular rotation of Showtime broadcasts, which it was in 1991. It's so forgotten that the film's stars, bodybuilders who enjoyed brief notoriety under the name "The Barbarian Brothers," are mostly forgotten, gone the way of Rod Hull or Ray J. Johnson.

But the film is remembered fondly by those who do remember it. "This movie, for what it is, is terrific!" says one critic; "I absolutely love this movie," says another. Admittedly, the Internet is a big place, and it is possible to find fans for just about anything, but I have some sympathy for these opinions.

First, and to get this out of the way, "Think Big" is not an especially good film. It has a dopey storyline that feels almost like an afterthought, in which a genius girl detective invents a device that has possible military applications and escapes with, stowing away in a long-haul truck driven by two charmingly clueless truckers. The plot owes a lot to "Real Genius," released five years before and detailing genius teen inventors, and a little to "Over the Top," released in 1987, in which a boy takes a roadtrip in a truck with his musclebound father. 

The stars of the movie, the Barbarian Brothers, superficially seem to be spectacular lunkheads. As weight lifters, they subscribed to a philosophy of just getting as big as they could, never mind the usual aesthetics of bodybuilding. And so the brothers were, and presumably still are, massive, and dressed to show it off, wearing the same sorts of torn or loose gym clothes favored by Jennifer Beals in "Flashdance." And both brothers have rather glorious mullets, perhaps the most despised male hairstyle.

That being said, the film boasts a surprising assemblage of talent and a positively daffy sense of humor that frequently works. Among the talent: writer/director Jon Turteltaub, who went on to helm some perfectly enjoyable mainstream films, including the Sandra Bullock comedy "While You Were Sleeping" and the "National Treasure" movies; both Richard Kiel and Richard Moll, actors whose entire careers were based on the fact that they were giants; and, in an odd turn, David Carradine as a gleefully unpleasant repo man; and Martin Mull, being dependably, comically unpleasant.

The film also features Ari Meyers and Claudia Christian, two actors mostly known for television work, the former playing the teen genius with enjoyable singlemindedness (she sometimes disappears for a little while, and it turns out she's been repairing a truck or something), the latter acting as a cheerful straight man. Like everything else in this film, both are better than they need to be.

The film also manages to figure out exactly what to do with the Barbarian Brothers, who, as actors, seem entirely incapable of taking anything seriously. They smirk their way through every scene, and so Turteltaub makes that their character. When villains pulls guns on the brothers, they roll their eyes, smirk, and just grab the guns and toss them away. At one point, a character tries to tie up one of the brothers, and every time she turns he back for a second, when she turns back to him he's standing there untied, smirking apologetically. 

This same unconcern for seriousness infects the rest of the movie, sometimes taking over: There are at least two moments in the film when it pauses to listen in on conversations between minor characters, both ridiculous. In one instance, a trucker insists on complimenting another trucker's socks, and the second trucker finally sheepishly admits they he knitted them himself. In another, two villains patrol a building, engaged in a finely detailed discussion about the relative merits of a microwave and a toaster oven. I could have listened to those discussions all day.

I know there are people for whom "daffy" reads as "dumb," and, as a result will find this film irritating. The film is entertainingly odd, but not so odd as to develop a fascinated fan base, as happens with cult films. And it isn't the sort of film that deserves, or would benefit from, a critical reevaluation; it's just not good enough.

But, I'll tell you something. If I'm scrolling through television stations at 2 am, looking for something to watch, and I land on "Think Big," well, buddy, I'm going to watch it. It's a hard film to respect, but an easy film to love.


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