Arthur Hiller’s Outrageous Fortune (1987) is mindless fluff that borders on slapstick. The screenplay by Leslie Dixon is pure cheese with an ounce of cider and vinegar supplied most readily by the tart, smart-mouthed Bette Midler. In line with Touchstone’s slick and relatively inexpensively produced product from the ‘80s; shot quickly and marketed as splashy – if dim-witted – comedy, this film stars Midler and Shelley Long as a pair of clueless and unlikely partners in crime.
Relying heavily on audience’s preconceived stereotypes of the two actresses (the expectation for Midler’s foul-mouth – a hold over from her raucous live stand-up days, and Long’s goody-two-shoes gleaned from her stint on television’s popular sit-com; Cheers), the narrative hops aimlessly from vignette to vignette – its saving grace, that it manages to maintain an air of ‘so what?!?’ about the fringes that is, if not sustaining, then at least adequate enough to pass the time.
Midler is Sandy Brozinksy, a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal who accidentally meets aspiring stage actress, Lauren Ames (Long) while at an audition for imminent stage impresario Stanislav Korzenowski (Robert Proski). Unbeknownst to either, both are having a torrid affair with Michael Sanders (Peter Coyote); a spy who is using both of them to communicate messages back and forth in their notebooks to the KGB. Michael presents himself as the ideal lover; honest, trustworthy and sincere. Nothing could be further from the truth.
After faking his own death in a bomb explosion that Lauren witnesses, Lauren and Sandy discover Michael’s romantic treachery. Realizing that the body in the morgue is not Michael’s, the plan concocted by these gals is simple: find Michael and make him choose between them.
Unfortunately for both women, Michael has merely been using them as couriers for Korzenowski – who is actually KGB. He's stolen a deadly toxin from the CIA that is now up for grabs to the highest bidder on the black market.
Gifted comedian George Carlin makes a celebrated appearance in the last act of this one hit wonder as Frank Madras – a supposed Indian guide who agrees to help Sandy and Lauren find Michael. After being told by Sandy the truth about their adventure and the toxin, the stunned Madras replies, “Geez-us, the sixties were good to you!”
Outrageous Fortune lives up to its title. It isn’t high minded comedy, but it is a highly enjoyable one. Midler and Carlin get most of the credit here. They get a lot of economy out of sass. Midler's jokes and her crass dispatch with a one liner sharpen the razor wit to biting levels. But Shelley Long is too whiny and much too short on believability to be enjoyed. Still, it's fun to watch Midler mop the floor with her wimpy counterpart, forcing Lauren to become more gutsy even if she has to drag her kicking and screaming through most of the movie.
Peter Coyote struggles to be convincing as a ruthless killer during the last half of the story. It doesn't come off. We never quite buy his act and that hurts the story somewhat. Overall, Outrageous Fortune is feel good entertainment; just not an exceptional one.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment delivers a remarkably sharp and relatively vibrant anamorphic transfer. Colors are, for the most part, vibrant – though occasionally the dye transfer process by DeLuxe fluctuates from scene to scene with more or less vibrancy. Contrast levels are nicely balanced. Film grain is evident but not distracting. Age related artifacts are also present. The audio is Stereo Surround – slightly muffled in spots – but on the whole satisfying enough for this presentation. A theatrical trailer is the only extra.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)