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Big Business Reviews

Two of America's funniest women, Midler and Tomlin, are paired in this mistaken-identity farce (a loose reworking of START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME) directed by Abrahams, the man in the middle of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker triumvirate that created AIRPLANE!; RUTHLESS PEOPLE; and THE NAKED GUN. While traveling in West Virginia, a wealthy New York woman goes into labor and is rushed to the nearest hospital. Because the hospital caters only to employees of the Hollowmade Furniture factory, her millionaire husband buys the company on the spot, and she is admitted. She gives birth to twin daughters--as does a local woman in another room. A near-sighted nurse mixes up the babies, of course. Years later Midler and Tomlin are the two pairs of mismatched twins. Midler plays both Sadie Shelton, the tough-as-nails CEO of the Moramax Corporation, and Sadie Ratliff, a Hollowmade employee who dreams of a life of luxury far removed from her home in Jupiter Hollow. Tomlin portrays the wispy Rose Shelton, who worries more about saving whales than about Moramax's profit outlook, and Rose Ratliff, a headstrong Hollowmade foreman and union organizer who stomps off to New York City with her sister to fight Moramax's proposed sale of the furniture factory. Both sets of twins check into the Plaza Hotel, and confusion abounds as they are repeatedly mistaken for one another while never quite meeting. This comedy of errors has more than a few laughs; but although it will satisfy Midler fans, it is not likely to win her many new converts. Nor does the movie use Tomlin to her best advantage. The broad humor of BIG BUSINESS is well-suited to Midler's sassy, steamroller style, and she sashays through both of her roles with plenty of verve. In contrast, however, is Tomlin, whose more subtle approach is lost in this broad farce. Director Abrahams, working on his own for the first time, has some problems with pacing and with sustaining an essentially one-joke premise that never arrives at its big payoff. He often misses the mark with smaller targets too, but he does elicit some fine supporting performances from Ward, Gerroll, Placido, and Webb, who provide many of the best laughs.