½*/**** Image D Sound D
starring James Belushi, Charles Grodin, Anne De Salvo, Loryn Locklin
screenplay by Jill Mazursky & Jeffrey Abrams
directed by Arthur Hiller
by Walter Chaw Proving that hope springs eternal in the hearts of idiots and madmen, Taking Care of Business features the Cubs in a World Series and Jim Belushi in one of those showcase roles in which a nominal comedian gets to demonstrate his alleged madcap skills. Occurring in that weird twilight zone of cinema where once-topical humour is briefly funny again in a retro-Gen-X way (Jim's exclamation upon entering a mansion, "I'm on freakin' 'Dynasty'!" would find a home in any neo-Tarantino screenplay), Taking Care of Business also features two "Star Trek: The Next Generation" stars (Gates McFadden and John de Lancie)--the one making a joke out of her breasts, the other nodding quietly in appreciation of them. The flick is, to summarize, interesting in a surreal sort of way.
Jimmy (Belushi) is a lovable screwball who wins World Series tickets while in the pen and conspires to break out to enjoy them. Freshly sprung, he picks up the day-planner of Spencer (Charles Grodin) by chance and proceeds to hijack Spencer's identity in a series of "amusing" misadventures. The Japanese are made the butt of a few jokes, a few women are leered at, and Spencer learns to loosen up while Jimmy learns responsibility. Because the film is a product of a very particular tradition of suck, Jimmy ends up in drag somehow, and Grodin dons a priest's garb.
The only thing more excruciating than watching all of Taking Care of Business in one sitting is to do so without the aid of narcotics. Written by the brain-trust behind Gone Fishin' (Jill Mazursky and Jeffrey Abrams), the picture is a series lame jokes and clunky plot machinations that would strike as cynical were they not so obviously desperate. I'm not sure what buttons were pushed in the green-lighting of this film, though I suspect the pitch probably had something to do with wanting to compete with Dana Carvey's similarly misguided star vehicle Opportunity Knocks (released concurrently in 1990), that Grodin on a road trip was still a hot ticket after 1988's marginally successful Midnight Run, and that after 1989's The Experts (1989), any film concept might seem like a good one.
Taking Care of Business is just awful; you can practically see the flop sweat beading on Belushi's expansive dome as he's forced, beyond his modest Tom Arnold-ian means, to carry a major studio vehicle. It has an idiot plot that besides being preposterous lacks the oomph (like its star, curiously) to justify a full-length treatment. Gaining a bit of pop art--almost Dadaist--credibility now, Taking Care of Business has become an illustration of that peculiar divide where the very intelligent and the very stupid like it equally--one from kitsch IQ, one from zero IQ.
Hollywood Pictures Home Video presents Taking Care of Business on DVD in a fullscreen 1.33:1 presentation that looks consistently awful from start to finish. Grainy, not colour-corrected, and dishwater dull, the transfer suggests a film twice its twelve years. Although I find such carelessness of restoration to be a shame unconditionally, I'm not able to work up too much of a lather about it in the case of Taking Care of Business. The Dolby Digital 5.1 remix starts out with the dialogue sounding as if recorded into a bucket and continues with sporadic periods where the centre channel is swallowed whole by the rest of the soundtrack. Distorted bass and tinny reproduction rule the day. There are no extras on this disc. Originally published: May 1, 2002.
108 minutes; R; 1.33:1; English DD 5.1; CC; DVD-9; Region One; Hollywood