Mr. Mom meets the Soul Man's girlfriend in "The Squeeze," a meek romantic thriller with manic Michael Keaton flailing opposite reluctant costar Rae Dawn Chong. They spat and fret and inevitably fall head over gumshoes as a glum girl detective and a glib boy gambler, thrown together in this middling mystery.
It's a slightly confusing story of corporate paranoia about a ring of white-collar criminals who fix lotto jackpots with magnetized ping-pong balls. They're magnates with magnets and inestimable greed. Mildly amusing as it is, Keaton's capering does beat the lucky-number drawing on TV. The comic actor, full of sass and sarcasm, catches us up in his action heroics as a down-on-his-luck artist whose ex-wife sticks him with a super magnet sought by the lotto fixers and their henchmen.
But the lines aren't there and neither is his costar. Chong, her tossle of tassels tied into a braid, looks as bulky as the crime-fighting bulldog McGruff in her khaki trenchcoat. And she's positively listless, with all that Chong cheek and haughty mystique buried under a bungled imitation of Bogart. (Margot Kidder tried the same ruse in "Trenchcoat" several years ago with the same drab result.)
Here Chong and Keaton -- he whooping, she drooping -- are car-chased and manhandled by an assortment of thugs, albeit at a fast, largely painless pace. Meat Loaf, the rocker named for the suppertime staple, is the most memorable as a sweaty heavy Titus -- a walking ad for five-day pads, who drips on our hardy heroes. The mismatched couple, undeterred by the stinky gunman, continue to seek out the mastermind behind the magnet -- a choice between a charming French industrialist (Ronald Guttman) and an evangelical lotto host (John Davidson).
It's a plot-poor first script from Daniel Taplitz, directed by Roger Young, an Emmy winner for his television farm drama "Bitter Harvest." His last feature credit was "Lassiter," a flat spy thriller with Tom Selleck. Neither director nor writer shows much imagination -- Taplitz lifts his running "Bonanza" jokes from "Diner." And Young's a car-crashing bore.
The Squeeze, at area theaters, is rated PG-13 and contains violence and profanity.