Night Shift (1982)

I was in the middle of writing my Night Shift post on Wednesday when I got the call from work saying I was supposed to be there half an hour ago. I don’t know what happened exactly that made me completely neglect seeing the date on the schedule but I dropped everything and headed straight there. Then on Friday I was  in the process of posting the Night Shift review when my brother called and asked if I wanted to rave my ass off to some dubstep courtesy of the band Zed’s Dead. Despite being side tracked twice I have been determined to not skimp out on the great Keaton week were having. Especially since both posts I wanted to do came by requests. The Keaton fan base is strong here.

So what do we have tonight kids! How about a double post of Ron Howard/Michael Keaton action with Night Shift and Gung Ho.

This is one of my earliest comedy memories. I’ve grown up with Night Shift and Mr. Mom since I was a wee little baby. The concept is sheer genius. Wall Street stock broker Chuck (The Fonz himself, Henry Winkler) takes a break from the high-octane world of global finance and accepts a low-level job as the night watchman for a New York City morgue. There he meets the eccentric Bill “Blaze” Blazejowski (Michael Keaton) who hatches a scheme to convert their quite night time occupation into a business of pleasure and become pimps (or as Blaze says “Love Brokers!”)

Madcap nonsense ensues as we witness Blaze recruit and train a troupe of prostitutes and Chuck struggles to keep the employers from finding out and win the love of the wholesome prostitute-next-door Belinda (a shockingly sexy Shelley Long). This is an incredibly well-made comedy. The script and dialogue are spot on, the timing from each actor perfect, every character instantly likable and it never looses its tone. It has a fantastic 80s soundtrack including Quarterflash’s gorgeous title song and the Rod Stewart nugget that later became an AIDS awareness anthem. The film also possesses a great number of sight gags including a sign that says HOES as the girls are crossing the street that reveals SHOES when the camera is pulled back. It could almost be viewed as a holiday movie because most of it takes place in December around Christmastime and surely beats the syrupy pulp were given most winters.

Keaton is at the top of his game in this side-splitting debut. The young Keaton perfectly fashions his stand-up routine and comedy chops to fit such a loud, overbearing and yet still lovable character. Henry Winkler is almost the anti-Fonz as the preciously neurotic straight-man, proving his comedy chops are far superior to that of the Happy Days legacy. And Shelley Long is unbelievably cute as she puts her spin on the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold.

There are many priceless moments. Favorites include a sequence in which Blaze tries to show off his car’s newly tinted windows to Chuck by mocking the police car next to them (“We got hot naked young girls in here”) and realizing the cops can still see them. Also the faces Henry Winkler makes when a topless Shelley Long makes him some eggs. And the morgue employee Leonard watching the Flinstones and perfectly dead-panning “Barney Rubble, what an actor.”

-John

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