A Double Helping of Bette Midler Comedies


Kino Lorber has released a double-bill blu-ray that both contain actress Bette Midler that features her in roles that are the polar opposite of one another.

The first film featured in this set, Big Business, is directed by Jim Abrahams who is best known for Airplane!, and The Naked Gun.  Abrahams also directed Midler in the film Ruthless People in 1986.

The other film in the set, Scenes from a Mall, is from director Paul Mazursky who directed Moscow on the Hudson, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills.



Big Business


Of the two Bette Midler films in this blu-ray double feature, Big Business is the more accessible of the two.  Both Bette and her co-star, Lily Tomlin, get to play two versions of their characters.  The set-up is that a wealthy New York couple with the last name of Shelton finds themselves driving through rural West Virginia when Mrs. Shelton, who is pregnant, has her water break necessitating an emergency stop in Jupiter Hollow to give birth to twin girls.  At the same hospital, backwoods family, the Ratliffs, are also giving birth to twin girls.  Through a mistake by the nurse, one of each of the twin girls are mistakenly identified with the wrong last name.  Each couple takes home one of theirs and one of the other’s children.

For those that might be confused on how this could work, each couple had identical twins, but growing up they saw them as fraternal twins.  The Ratliffs also overhear the Sheltons naming their girls and give the same names to their two. Thus, we have one Bette Middler in each family, both of which are named Sadie (Shelton and Ratliff), and one Lily Tomlin in each family named Rose (Shelton and Ratliff).

Sadie Shelton, from New York City, is a ruthless business executive willing to blur the ethical lines when needed, including a potential buyout of a company she plans on liquidating that happens to be in Jupiter Hollow.  Her counterpart, Sadie Ratliff has grown up country but for some reason has longed for all of the luxuries of the big city life, never fitting in at her Jupiter Hollow home.

Rose Shelton, is an environmentally conscience person who often feels like she is pulling against everything Sadie Shelton is trying to accomplish as they both run daddy’s company.  She longs for a more simple life, somewhere away from the city.  Rose Ratliff, however, is a take charge kinda gal who is ready to ruffle some feathers at the Shelton company for trying to go after their company in Jupiter Hollow.  She is also engaged to local putt-putt Masters Champion Roone Dimmick (Fred Ward) who heads off to New York City when he finds out that both Sadie and Rose Ratliff have gone there to take on the Sheltons.

Of course zaniness will abound as there are plenty of opportunities for mistaken identity that may cause this whole business deal to implode, as well as confuse simple-minded Roone Dimmick as he looks for Rose.  There are good supporting roles for Edward Hermann, Michele Placido, Daniel Gerrol, and Michael Gross.


Scenes From a Mall


Scenes from a Mall stars Bette Midler as Deborah who is married to Nick, played by Woody Allen.  After sending their teenage kids off to camp, Deborah and Nick head to the local Los Angeles mall to pick up everything for their anniversary party that night.

Director Paul Mazursky slowly unravels the true nature of their relationship as they share laughs, stories, take work calls after being paged by clients (its the early 1990’s, everyone had pagers), and begin to reveal startling confessions that may cause everything they’ve built to come undone, all in a single day at the mall.

Woody Allen plays his usual neurotic self, and as the story dips into discussions of infidelity and the like, it only reminds you how little the public thinks of him for all of the accusations of his own infidelity and the marrying of his wife’s adopted daughter.  While this character trope of his would have hit big in 1991 at its release for those who are fans of Allen, it has certainly not aged well in the decades since.

The laughs of the film are hard to come by, though if you are a fan of Mazursky, they’ll arrive in his trademark off-kilter way.  The running gag of the film involves a mime at the mall that keeps showing up at the worst moments possible as Deborah and Nick run the gambit of emotions.  Midler is strong here, especially when you recognize her contrasting range with a film like Big Business.  The film also cleverly satires the typical suburban yuppie power couple of that day, and our obsession with materialism, success, and status while pointing out how we neglect to even be real with those we are supposed to love.

The Blu-Ray Package

The blu-ray package is very simple with the single disc containing both films.  They are both English language films and the format is offered in anamorphic, color, Dolby, NTSC, and Widescreen.  The only extras are trailers.


The images in this review are not representative of the actual blu-ray image quality and are included only to represent the film itself.