A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
“Big Business” opens with a scene in which two sets of twins are mixed up, so that in later life each set will contain one Bette Midler and one Lily Tomlin. This ought to have inspired a funny movie, but instead what it inspires is an endless and dreary series of scenes in which the various twins just barely miss running into each other in the Plaza Hotel. You can picture the scenes. The elevator doors close on one Midler just as the other Midler comes running down the hallway.
This is not funny. It is never funny, in this movie or any other movie. People running into each other can be funny, but when they just miss, what are we supposed to do? Slap our knees and say, “Lord a-mighty, they dern near ran into each other and wouldn’t that have been funny!” Early in the production of this movie, somebody should have made the following observation: Scenes of people barely missing one another in hotels are not amusing.
In its presentation of the two sets of non-twins, the movie backs genetics rather than environment as the prime formative factor in human development. Both Midlers are conniving and materialistic, and both Tomlins are flutter-brained and well-meaning. But the Midler/Tomlin team from down South in Jupiter Hollow is a little nicer. They work in the local factory, which has manufactured porch swings from time immemorial.
Meanwhile, the New York Midler wants to sell out the factory and the town to a shifty Italian investor who wants to strip-mine the whole county right off the map. The impending sale inspires the Jupiter Hollow women to travel up north to New York for the annual stockholder’s meeting of the company controlled by the Manhattan women.