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USA 1988
Directed by
Jim Abrahams
94 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Big Business

Jim Abrahams had collaborated with David and Jerry Zucker on some of the big (but eminently disposable) comedies of the 80s, Airplane!, Top Secret!, and Ruthless People so it’s a bit of a surprise that this, his first solo effort as a director, flopped. This is perhaps because stylistically it harks back to the mad-cap farces of the 30s and people mistook its tongue-in-cheek playfulness with the tropes of that style for lack of wit.

Written by Dori Pierson and Marc Reid Rubel, two television writers who barely scored another credit after this, it is a cleverly scripted comedy about two sets of twins, born in a backwater hospital waydown South in Jupiter Hollow in the 1940s. One set belong to a wealthy couple from New York passing through, the other to local yokels. The babies are accidentally switched so that one of each pair goes with the other and they grow up to be Sadie (Bette Midler) and Rose (Lily Tomlin), respectively New York executives and country gals. When the New York Sadie wants to sell Jupiter Hollow’s main business, the Hollowmade Furniture Company, left to her and her sister by their father, the country gals head to the Big Apple to take them on.

The film then becomes a smartly choreographed routine of near misses and mistaken identities as the four women stay in the same hotel and encounter the same people without anyone realizing what is really going on. The script has trouble establishing the character of the country Midler and the inevitable confrontation which falls back on the old Marx Brothers mirror gag is far from outstanding but for the most part, this works a treat with Midler and Tomlin in fine form, helped out by Edward Herrmann and Daniel Gerroll as a couple of gay execs and Fred Ward in a gem of a performance as a miniature-golf pro.




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