- Bette Midler, Lily Tomlin; rated PG (rofanity, vulgarity, comic violence, implied sex); Cineplex Odeon Holladay Center Cinemas, Cineplex Odeon Midvalley Cinemas, Cineplex Odeon Trolley Square Theaters, UA Fashion Place Mall.
"Big Business" opens with an urban couple in the 1940s driving through a rural area when the wife goes into labor. They stop at a small hospital where a local couple also goes when the wife goes into labor.Both mothers give birth to twin girls, and you just know one of each set will end up in the wrong cribs, one pair to grow up poor and the other rich.
In some ways this movie looks like a test of genetic vs. environmental conditions, and the inspiration, of course, is Shakespeare's "A Comedy of Errors." (here was another film along the same lines some years ago - "Start the Revolution Without Me," set during the French Revolution, with Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland.)
But "Big Business" places the action in '80s America, and casts Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin as the twins mixed up at birth.
The rural Midler & Tomlin are country girls upset by the prospect of their small town being razed for stripmining. So they head for New York City to confront the conglomerate that is about to do them in.
The New York company is, of course, run by the city Midler & Tomlin, and as you may expect - as you must expect - the two sets of twins stay in the same hotel, in rooms right next to each other, and soon there are all kinds of mistaken identities right and left.
There's not much here you can't predict. The setups signal far in advance what the punchlines will be. But predictability isn't always a bad thing - especially with comedy. And the anticipation helps build up some very funny moments.
There's the Italian executive who is romanced by the city Midler and ignored by her country sister; there's the hotel clerk flirted with by the country Midler and punched out by her city sister; there's the feisty country Tomlin searching for microphones in every nook and cranny, sure their room has been bugged; there's the city Tomlin yearning for a life without urban trappings.
And there are, of course, the men who pursue them and wind up with the wrong women - Michael Gross (he father on TV's "Family Ties"), Barry Primus and Fred Ward. Edward Herrmann and Daniel Gerroll are a gay couple working for the urban Midler & Tomlin. And all are quite good.
But it is Midler and Tomlin's show, and they are terrific, as is the complex direction of Jim Abrahams, in his first solo directing effort after having teamed with the Zucker brothers for "Airplane!" "Top Secret!" and "Ruthless People." The special effects are amazing and the scenes with the two Midlers and two Tomlins together are quite astonishing.
The performances of Tomlin and Midler are nothing short of terrific, each playing two distinctly different characters, which makes it easy for the audience to keep track of which is which, even when other characters around them cannot.
There are a few script lapses and some of the gags fall a bit flat, but on the whole "Big Business" moves like lightning and offers quite a lot of funny stuff. And despite their very different styles, Midler and Tomlin work very well together, both getting their share of big laughs.
"Big Business" is rated PG for a couple of profanities, some vulgar remarks and comic violence. There is also implied sex between city-Midler and the Italian executive.