Upon its release in 1988, reviewers and critics found little to like about Big Business. Although Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin played multiple roles within an outrageous plot, their acting seemed mismatched. The bigger problem, some complained, lay in Dori Pierson and Marc Rubel's overly structured screenplay and the mechanical direction by Jim Abrahams. These factors resulted in predictable mix-ups that removed any element of surprise. Topping these concerns were a confusing plot and a non-climactic climax. Audiences, however, seemed to like it. They awarded Big Business $40 million in box-office receipts, making the film a big success. Midler delivered the kind of outlandish performance that her fans expected (as she had the previous year in Outrageous Fortune). Big Business was Abrahams' first solo project outside of his work with the Zucker brothers, with whom he made Airplane (1980) and Ruthless People (1986). He would rejoin his partners in anarchic comedy in 1988 for The Naked Gun.