February 16, 1987 12:00 PM

Bette Midler and Shelley Long bring out the bitchy, bawdy best in each other in this breakneck farce, even though it sometimes tries too hard for laughs. Director Arthur (Silver Streak) Hiller packs the film with everything from chopper chases to Indians on motorcycles. We’ve seen these gags before. What we haven’t seen is Midler and Long as a team (nor for that matter have we seen any major actresses team up in a comedy since 9 to 5). When Leslie Dixon’s script (her first) sticks close to these unlikely sidekicks, the result is a racy, raucous joyride and something more. At its best, the humor is based on character and the laughter seasoned with heart. Midler (even better than in Ruthless People) and Long (in a nifty departure from her role on TV’s Cheers) play struggling New York actresses in the same drama class. The fastidious, classically trained Long detests Midler, whose main credit is a bit in Ninja Vixens. When both women discover they’ve been seduced by the same boyfriend (Peter Coyote), a double agent who faked his own death, they launch a manhunt to find out which one he liked best. A silly premise, yes, but who cares in the face of the irresistible verbal and visual byplay between the two stars? A particular howl comes in watching Long’s slow descent into shock as Midler, in return for information, offers oral sex to a tobacconist. (Yes, this is another Walt Disney Productions movie not meant for the kiddies.) Midler, always a hoot, also shows a touching openness as she realizes she’s developing a real friendship with Long. Midler and Long’s low-comic high jinks make Outrageous Fortune the perfect laugh cure for the blues. (R)

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