A buddy movie is only as good as its buddies -- Gibson and Glover, Hoffman and Cruise, Milo and Otis, Hanks and Hooch. A crash course in sentiment, most often aimed at emotionally gummed-up cops, the genre tells us that opposites can relate, whether they are Cold War enemies or cats and dogs.
Jim Belushi, whose last buddy movie was with "K-9" Jerry Lee, and Charles Grodin, whose last buddy movie was with Robert DeNiro, have both come down a peg or two in "Taking Care of Business." Cowritten by producer Paul Mazursky's daughter, Jill, this one is as predictable as sunrise and as stale as bedpost gum.
Belushi is the messy one, a Chicago Cubs fan who steals away from his minimum-security prison to cheer his team on at the World Series. Grodin is the neat one, a Filofax-fixated adman who loses his precious date book on the way to shmooze a client in Los Angeles. You'll never guess who finds and attempts to return the daily planner to the Malibu address inside.
Belushi, a great guy who just happens to be a car thief, finds nobody at the palatial Las Vegas-style residence, where he is mistaken for Grodin, who is mugged, plugged, slugged and bugged on his way to Malibu. Belushi takes over the high-powered executive's life and turns it topsy-turvy, which is for the best because Grodin was just a miserable yuppie anyway.
Wearily directed by Arthur Hiller, "TCB" is a "Trading Places" with boring white guys and a gang of negative female role models: Veronica Hamel, clutching wife; Anne DeSalvo, yammering princess; Loryn Locklin, round-heeled rich girl; and Gates McFadden, corporate shrew. McFadden, better known as the doctor on the USS Enterprise, gets hers a` la Sigourney Weaver, the uppity smarty-pants in "Working Girl."
As it finally happens, the two men overcome their initial enmity and go off together to a baseball game. Before you can say, "Get yer peanuts heah," these two former Little Leaguers have bonded. Ah, ball. Ah, bliss. Ah, baloney.
Banal performances -- Jim is still not John and Grodin is playing a second-rate variation of the uptight guy in "Midnight Express" -- combine with derivative plot to tell us that yuppies are too grasping for their own good. This is one more Bud Lite.
Taking Care of Business, at area theaters, is rated R for profanity and infantile sexuality.