Michael Keaton stars as one of those quirky artists who work multimedia into their dopey sculptures. Rae Dawn Chong is the gumshoe who comes knocking on his door looking for him to pay a debt he owes a former lover, who turns out to have been murdered. The unlikely duo team up to investigate what turns out to be a conspiracy to rig the lottery with magnets in the little balls. Ronald Guttman plays a wealthy European industrialist, John Davidson is the cheesy lottery host, Meat Loaf is a sweaty thug named Titus, Leslie Bevis is a femme fatale, and Joe Pantoliano plays Keaton’s best bud.
Although he got off to a successful start in “Night Shift”, Michael Keaton’s career kinda floundered in mediocrity until 1988-89, wherein he hit the box-office big time in “Batman”, and also did great work in “Beetlejuice”, and an unforgettable dramatic turn in “Clean and Sober”. Hell, throw in the underrated comedy “The Dream Team” too. However, in order to get from “Night Shift” to “Beetlejuice”, it was a helluva bumpy ride with some pretty lukewarm films like “Mr. Mom”, “Touch and Go”, “Johnny Dangerously”, and “Gung Ho” (AKA “Working Class Man”). Those films are Oscar-contenders, though, compared to this completely witless 1987 flop from director Roger Young (a TV movie veteran) and writer Daniel Taplitz (who didn’t amount to much after this debut effort). It’s Keaton’s version of “The Golden Child” (it doesn’t deserve to be compared to “Fletch”, despite the plot sounding like it could be), and it’s kind of a miracle that Keaton’s career recovered.
Keaton is a gifted actor with a specialised talent that needs the right vehicle. He has really only found it in fits and starts (with “Beetlejuice” and “Clean and Sober” being his best vehicles), and this film gives him absolutely nothing to work with at all. He seems lost and bored. Keaton seems to know it’s awful, and his multimedia triceratops art piece is the most ridiculously unfunny and stupid thing I’ve seen since Max Headroom.
Even dumber is the film’s MacGuffin. I mean, my God that’s just beyond ridiculous. This is shitty sitcom material, and although Keaton had already made the sitcom-like “Mr. Mom”, at least that would’ve made a decent sitcom. This? No chance. But Keaton isn’t really the problem. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Eddie Murphy couldn’t do anything with this awful script. Rae Dawn Chong certainly can’t do anything with it, and is even worse than usual. Despite playing a gumshoe in a mystery movie, she ends up being sidekick to Michael Keaton, who already has Joey Pants for a sidekick. So she’s twice as irrelevant. Chong is also saddled with a too-cute gumshoe outfit that is just pathetic, and the film is further proof that Rae Dawn Chong simply didn’t learn how to act until 1994’s little-seen “Boulevard”. Why does her character get so damn pissy when it appears Keaton has had sex with Leslie Bevis? She and Keaton have barely any relationship and even less chemistry, so he can bang whoever he wants. That’s just awful work on Taplitz’s part, even Meryl Streep couldn’t find the emotional truth or motivation of that scene.
The only actor who emerges from this relatively unscathed is surprisingly Meat Loaf. He plays his character effectively, and the shitty screenplay doesn’t really affect him because he has no dialogue. Ronald Guttman, meanwhile is astonishingly bad, and his very first scene gives the game away.
The worst element of the film by far, however, is the music score by Miles Goodman (“Footloose”, “La Bamba”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”). It’s exceptionally loud, ear-splitting, and drowns out every other sound.
It’s probably one of the worst comedies of the mid to late 80s, a period that also gave us “High Spirits”, “Teen Wolf Too”, and “The Golden Child”, among other turkeys. It also needed a lot more Joey Pants, the gifted character actor barely gets a look in. A terrible, terrible film, you may as well just watch “Night Shift” or “Beetlejuice” again.