Michael Keaton's the live wire and Henry Winkler's the deadbeat in director Ron Howard's new hit, ''Night Shift," a whorifying undertaking that solicits its laughs by pairing the quick and the dead.
It's a "Klute"-meets-"The Loved One" scenario, with Winkler as Chuck, grave night manager of the city morgue, and Keaton as Bill, fast-talking hearse jockey and idea man. Winkler forgoes the Fonz for a Dagwood type, playing straight for Keaton's manic antics, which all but bury Winkler as he tries to cast off the greasy kid stuff.
When Keaton's out of the picture, Winkler gets his bits across well and makes a rather likable schlub. He wins sympathy when his fiancee, a chunklette named Charlotte Koogle (Gina Hecht), makes him check the apartment in mid-foreplay. While he nibbles her neck, she helps herself to a Mallomar. "Are you excited yet," she asks? "Like the French when Lindbergh landed," he gasps.
As it turns out, Belinda, the prostitute- next-door, interrupts their "nooner" with a raucous business transaction. Belinda -- Shelley Long plays her with peekaboo precocity -- is on her own these days. Her pimp, having received the underworld's kiss of death, is on ice at the morgue. He is survived by Belinda and a whole pride of prostitutes, who eventually hook up with Chuck and Bill. It's T&A with DOA. The boys become "love brokers," booking the girls out of the morgue. From there, it's on to the climax at a private sex club where fat old rich guys wallow in hot tubs and swing under Tarzan vines.
The racy little screenplay is based on a news clipping about two young men who were caught running a call-girl ring from a morgue. Producer Brian Grazer brought the idea to Ron Howard, and despite everything he learned from Aunt Bea, he bought it. Probably because of Howard's TV background, the movie's sanitary and trim. He's in and out fast, with a running time of 105 minutes.
Original music by Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager match the breezy pace and oldie-goodies like "You Really Got Me" and "Jumping Jack Flash" charge up weaker scenes, like a hell-raising frat party in the slab room.
It's a facile effort, that treats working girls well overall, without obsessing on breast shots. Bet Dolly Parton wishes she was working the "Night Shift" instead of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." NIGHT SHIFT -- At the AMC Academy, AMC Skyline, K-B Baronet West, K-B Cerberus, K-B Congressional, K-B Langley, NTI Landover, Showcase Bradlick, Showcase Beacon Mall, Showcase Fair City, Showcase Mercado and Tenley Circle.