Big Business (1988)

Bette Midler in Big Business (1988)

Lily Bette & The Mix Up

On their way to their new beach house Hunt & Binky Shelton are forced to stop at the hospital in the small town of Jupiter Hollow so that Binky can give birth to a set of twins. At the same time a local couple, Iona and Garth Ratliff, are also in the hospital as their twins are born at the same time. Well with so many births the midwife makes a mistake and mixes up the babies. Many years later the Shelton's twin daughters, Sadie and Rose, now run the family business and are planning to shut down the business they own in Jupiter Hollow. This doesn't go down well with the folks in Jupiter Hollow especially the Ratliff's twin daughters, Sadie and Rose. Determined to stop the business from being closed the Ratliff twins head to New York and miraculously find themselves in the same hotel as the Shelton twins causing plenty of chaos and confusion.

"Big Business" starts of quite well, the scenes back in the 1940s with the Shelton's turning up in Jupiter Hollow are well created as they lay way for all the future confusion between the two sets of twins. But once that is done and we become aware that in New York you have one mismatched pair of twins running the family business and the other mismatched pair still in Jupiter Hollow it becomes a bit ordinary. What this means is that whilst we get the set up of Sadie & Rose Shelton wanting to sell the business in Jupiter Hollow giving reasoning for Sadie & Rose Ratliff to turn up in New York it becomes irrelevant.

Lily Tomlin and Seth Green in Big Business (1988)

As such "Big Business" is a movie about one thing and that is the chaos, confusion and comedy of having the mismatched twins in the same hotel. You know the sort of stuff, Sadie Shelton walks out of a room one minute only for Sadie Ratliff to walk in dressed differently the next causing confusion and bemusement to all those around. The same with Rose as more confusion over who is who. And to make it more amusing tie in 4 men all of whom are linked to one or other of the Rose & Sadie's. The thing is that whilst all this starts off as funny but obvious, by the time the same joke has been used for the third time it becomes boring and repetitive, especially as that same gag is used more than just three times.

"Big Business" does have other jokes, but to be honest they work little better especially the couple which revolve around Sadie Ratliff singing, most notably the one where she is singing whilst milking a cow. Don't get me wrong Bette Midler can sing but the fact here she is not only milking a cow but also yodelling is just too weird to be funny.

The thing is that after about 90 minutes of repetitive gags "Big Business" does come to a head with probably the best gag in the movie. Bette Midler is just brilliant in the scene playing both the Sadie's with such over the top comedy you can't but help laugh. That is one of the things about "Big Business" is that by no means of the imagination is it a subtle comedy with barely a humorous moment not being played intentionally over the top.

Whilst I like both Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin, I can't say that either of their performances in "Big Business" are that memorable, more a case of solid and functional. They work the gags well, even if it is basically the same gag over and over again and of course thanks to the technology we have 2 Bette Midler's and 2 Lily Tomlin's on screen at the same time meaning double the comedy. The claim of solid yet functional extends to all the other supporting actors and actresses including Fred Ward, Edward Herrmann and Michael Gross although seeing a young Seth Green playing an annoying kid is quite amusing.

What this all boils down to is that "Big Business" is amusing as it works through a comedy of chaos and confusion. But it also ends up quite boring thanks to the repetitive nature of the same gag being used over and over again. Even the delightful pairing of Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin fail to make it any the better, but in a sort of simplistic 80s sort of way it is entertaining to watch the once.