Before Arnold Schwarzenegger became famous, he became Mr. Olympia, and before that there was Joe and Ben Weider, Polish-Canadian brothers who founded the International Foundation of BodyBuilders and its Mr. Olympia contest.
Schwarzenegger makes an appearance late in this melodramatic biopic in the form of lookalike Calum Von Moger, but Joe (Tyler Hoechlin) is the real star of the show, and director George Gallo never lets us forget it.
This is a real rags-to-riches tale, with Joe and brother Ben (Aneurin Barnard) growing up poor but scrappy in Depression-era Montreal until Joe’s dream of helping people make the most of their bodies takes them to New York and then Los Angeles as publishers of Your Physique, later renamed Muscle & Fitness.
It also sets them up against rival bodybuilding magnate Bill Hauk (Kevin Durand), a real Deep South anti-Semite racist and also a composite character. More real (and more realistic) is Julianne Hough as Betty Brosmer, a model and pinup girl who married Joe and helped run his burgeoning empire.
Gallo, who also co-wrote the script, dedicates his film “to Joe and Ben,” and ladles on a score more in keeping with a trip to the moon than a bodybuilding business. Everything from old Montreal to glittering Hollywood is shot with sparkle, and everything Joe says is Punctuated. And. In. Capital. Letters. The Weiders denounced drinking and espoused protein shakes, but the film suggests you can never have too much cheese.