If it’s been a while since you’veÂ laughed until it hurt, then go prepared for some pain during Â “BigÂ Business.”Â This laugh-a-minute farce –Â starring Bette Midler and LilyÂ Tomlin as identical twin sistersÂ who are accidently mismatchedÂ at birth – will keep even theÂ most sour cynic in stitches as itÂ blends slapstick routines, oneliners and mistaken identities
into a remarkably hilarious cinematic concoction.
The two stars steal the show asÂ they cunningly play off their ownÂ personalities in dual Â roles, withÂ Midler as a tough city slicker andÂ a country girl who dreams ofÂ being a city slicker and TomlinÂ as a f e i s ty, eccentric countryÂ woman and an unhappy cityÂ woman who dreams of a quietÂ country life. The two stars proveÂ to be a cinematic dream team, aÂ pair of extremely gifted starsÂ whose strikingly different stylesÂ be aut i ful ly c omp l eme nt eachÂ other.
Especially impressive is Tomun, who provides her charactersÂ with some wildly creative Â quirkyÂ bits, particularly a sidesplittingÂ “snake” motion which befuddlesÂ i n t i m i d a t i ng p e o p l e. Â Mi d l erÂ merely does a variation of theÂ bossy characters she portrayedÂ in “Ruthless People” and “Outrageous Fortune,” though she’sÂ still a joy in the role.
As “Big Business” opens, theÂ identical twin daughters of aÂ meek rural family – the Ratliffs
– are mistakenly mixed withÂ identical twin daughters of aÂ wealthy New York couple – the
Sheltons – at the out-of-the-wayÂ Hollowmade Furniture CompanyÂ Hospital. The situation becomesÂ even more complicated when theÂ couples give the girls the sameÂ first names, Rose (Tomlin) andÂ Sadie (Midler).
More than three decades later,Â their fates intertwine when RoseÂ Shelton, the CEO of the powerfulÂ New York conglomerate Moramax, plans to earn a profit by destroying, the West Virginia townÂ of Jupiter Hollow via a hostileÂ takeover which will bankrupt theÂ 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 andÂ Sadie arrive in New York, they’reÂ immediately mistaken for Â theÂ powerful Shelton sisters and given a luxurious suite at the famedÂ Plaza Hotel. The Â country RoseÂ thinks it’s all a plot to fool themÂ into a sense of false confidence,Â the country Sadie thinks it’s aÂ dream come true, as she’s suddenly besieged by suitors and allowed to sign for anything at theÂ hotel.
Meanwhile the city RoseÂ who’s described as a “bloodsucker,” and the city Sadie, a meek Â soul -who w e a rs a “Save theÂ Whales” button, think everyoneÂ around them – f r om a hotelÂ desk manager (Joe Grifasi), whoÂ flirts with the willing poor RoseÂ and then gets Â slapped by theÂ snobbish rich Rose, to two gayÂ Mor amax executives ( E dwa rdÂ Herrmann and Daniel Gerroll) –Â has gone totally bonkers.Â The plot becomes little moreÂ than a complicated game of mistaken identities, but the silly situation provides absolutely hilarious entertainment.
Thanks to director Jim Abrahams (who previously helmedÂ “Airplane!” and “Ruthless Â People” with his two partners, DavidÂ and Jerry Zucker, and makes hisÂ solo debut here), “Big Business”Â moves along quicker than a bobsled on an icy mountain Employing a quick cut t ing s t j l e,Â Abrahams never wastes a minuteÂ and, like Preston Sturges, quite
creatively uses a gifted supporting cast – which includes scenestealing Fred Ward as the poorÂ Rose’s country-bred boyfriendÂ who braves the terrors of 42ndÂ Street to aid his Â girlfriend andÂ Michael Gross of “Family Ties”Â as the rich Rose’s well-meaningÂ but blundering boyfriend – toÂ its full advantage.
Capturing the flavor of “BigÂ Business” in a review is impossible. The film demands that Â viewers allow themselves to be carried away by its silly plot and then rewards that suspension ofÂ critical thinking by providingÂ more funny moments than anyÂ film in recent memory. Here’sÂ the bottom line. Get a ticket forÂ “Big Business” and have a ball.
Those who don’t laugh should beÂ immediately transported to theÂ nearest morgue.