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'The Dream Team' (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 07, 1989

The Marx Brothers go to group therapy in "The Dream Team," a surprisingly amiable romp about a zany quartet of escaped mental patients four who flew out of the cuckoo's nest.

Michael Keaton, Peter Boyle, Christopher Lloyd and Stephen Furst costar in this dicey but, thanks to them, irresistibly nutty buddy movie. They make up a newly formed therapy group who harness their handicaps in order to rescue their psychiatrist from the corrupt cops who are trying to kill him.

Certainly it's not the same tired premise: For a change, the doctors are saner than their patients -- all of these folks got incompletes in their Rorschach tests. But these are lovable psychotics, neither straitjacketed nor drooling, with charming but incompatible views of reality.

Keaton brings his caustic comedy to the role of Bill, a compulsive liar whose hackles are permanently on red alert. He'd rather fight than twitch, but he's off the Thorazine like the rest of the fellows, and control is just beyond his reach. When he smashes a chair during a session, Dr. Weitzman (Dennis Boutsikaris) considers it progress.

Lloyd, "Taxi's" Rev. Jim, plays a former postal worker named Henry, who is convinced that he too is a psychiatrist. As an obsessive-compulsive, he is irresistibly drawn to picking up litter. His life is an anarchy of orderliness. Boyle's character, Jack, is also having an identity crisis. An ad man who wrote such classic jingles as "Plop-plop-fizz-fizz," he now believes he's Jesus. When Weitzman asks the men to adopt the buddy system, Jack draws himself up, imperious as the pope. "I didn't have any buddies when I was on the cross," he says.

The Harpo of the group is Albert, a cherubic catatonic played by Furst, best known as one of the "St. Elsewhere" doctors. Only Albert knows what has happened to Dr. Weitzman, who disappeared while taking his patient for a pit stop. "Where did Dr. Weitzman go? Where did he go? Where is Dr. Weitzman, Albert ... This is like a scene out of a Lassie movie," Bill observes.

Bill smashes a few urns and a few noggins, but he does get control of himself once he realizes the severity of the situation. He's a good-natured abuse comedian, a bourgeois Lenny Bruce. As the most rational, he becomes the leader of the group and, true to the buddy genre, they all learn to appreciate one another's quirks as they work as a team.

High expectations and Howard Zieff don't exactly go together like kibbles and bits, but here the director of such inoffensive mediocrities as "Private Benjamin" actually gives us good buddy value for our moviegoing dollar.

The Dream Team, at area theaters, is rated PG-13.

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