Review: Big Business

If it’s been a while since you’ve laughed until it hurt, then go prepared for some pain during  “Big Business.” This laugh-a-minute farce – starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin as identical twin sisters who are accidently mismatched at birth – will keep even the most sour cynic in stitches as it blends slapstick routines, oneliners and mistaken identities
into a remarkably hilarious cinematic concoction.

The two stars steal the show as they cunningly play off their own personalities in dual  roles, with Midler as a tough city slicker and a country girl who dreams of being a city slicker and Tomlin as a f e i s ty, eccentric country woman and an unhappy city woman who dreams of a quiet country life. The two stars prove to be a cinematic dream team, a pair of extremely gifted stars whose strikingly different styles be aut i ful ly c omp l eme nt each other.

Especially impressive is Tomun, who provides her characters with some wildly creative  quirky bits, particularly a sidesplitting “snake” motion which befuddles i n t i m i d a t i ng p e o p l e.  Mi d l er merely does a variation of the bossy characters she portrayed in “Ruthless People” and “Outrageous Fortune,” though she’s still a joy in the role.

As “Big Business” opens, the identical twin daughters of a meek rural family – the Ratliffs
– are mistakenly mixed with identical twin daughters of a wealthy New York couple – the
Sheltons – at the out-of-the-way Hollowmade Furniture Company Hospital. The situation becomes even more complicated when the couples give the girls the same first names, Rose (Tomlin) and Sadie (Midler).

More than three decades later, their fates intertwine when Rose Shelton, the CEO of the powerful New York conglomerate Moramax, plans to earn a profit by destroying, the West Virginia town of Jupiter Hollow via a hostile takeover which will bankrupt the Hollowmade Furniture Company. The company’s dedicated savior, Rose Ratliff, vows to visit
Ma n h a t t an and challenge the stockholders to save the furniture company, which employs virtually everyone in the town.

Once the count ry Rose and Sadie arrive in New York, they’re immediately mistaken for  the powerful Shelton sisters and given a luxurious suite at the famed Plaza Hotel. The  country Rose thinks it’s all a plot to fool them into a sense of false confidence, the country Sadie thinks it’s a dream come true, as she’s suddenly besieged by suitors and allowed to sign for anything at the hotel.

Meanwhile the city Rose who’s described as a “bloodsucker,” and the city Sadie, a meek  soul -who w e a rs a “Save the Whales” button, think everyone around them – f r om a hotel desk manager (Joe Grifasi), who flirts with the willing poor Rose and then gets  slapped by the snobbish rich Rose, to two gay Mor amax executives ( E dwa rd Herrmann and Daniel Gerroll) – has gone totally bonkers. The plot becomes little more than a complicated game of mistaken identities, but the silly situation provides absolutely hilarious entertainment.

Thanks to director Jim Abrahams (who previously helmed “Airplane!” and “Ruthless  People” with his two partners, David and Jerry Zucker, and makes his solo debut here), “Big Business” moves along quicker than a bobsled on an icy mountain Employing a quick cut t ing s t j l e, Abrahams never wastes a minute and, like Preston Sturges, quite
creatively uses a gifted supporting cast – which includes scenestealing Fred Ward as the poor Rose’s country-bred boyfriend who braves the terrors of 42nd Street to aid his  girlfriend and Michael Gross of “Family Ties” as the rich Rose’s well-meaning but blundering boyfriend – to its full advantage.

Capturing the flavor of “Big Business” in a review is impossible. The film demands that  viewers allow themselves to be carried away by its silly plot and then rewards that suspension of critical thinking by providing more funny moments than any film in recent memory. Here’s the bottom line. Get a ticket for “Big Business” and have a ball.
Those who don’t laugh should be immediately transported to the nearest morgue.

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