Rent Night Shift (1982)

3.4 of 5 from 63 ratings
1h 46min
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The world of Wall Street drove Charles Lumley III up the wall. His new job at the New York City Morgue is quieter - until Billy "Blaze" Blazejowski shows up with a cool idea on how to liven things up. Directed by Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code), 'Night Shift' is a breakneck farce rife with hysterical ideas thanks to veteran comedy writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Parenthood, Fever Pitch). Henry Winkler (Happy Days) is low-key Lumley in a delightfully offbeat performance. Shelley Long of Cheers also scores as a hapless happy hooker. But the casting triumph is film-debuting Michael Keaton as Billy Blaze, launching a career rich in comedic and dramatic highlights. Is this a great country or what?!
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Brian Grazer
Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
The Instant Expert's Guide, The Instant Expert's Guide to Ron Howard
Release Date:
Not released
Run Time:
106 minutes
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Release Date:
Run Time:
106 minutes
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
English Hard of Hearing
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 1.85:1
BLU-RAY Regions:
  • Theatrical Trailer'

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Reviews (1) of Night Shift

Not So Many Happy Days at the Morgue - I'll get my coat. - Night Shift review by Strovey

Spoiler Alert

Grand Theft Auto was really Ron Howard’s first film he directed but Night Shift is touted as his first attempt at a big Hollywood style film or feature. At the time he was just twenty-eight and it seems he was in a ‘safe place’ as he was surrounded by Happy Days friends, Henry Winkler or Fonzie and the writers Ganz and Mandel who wrote for Happy Days. Throw in the mix Richard Belzer, Winkler’s cousin, who in this film looks too much like him, and his brother Clint, who has an entire career based on Ron Howard’s films and the young director must have been fairly relaxed.

Michael Keaton is probably second billed here but it can be argued that this was his breakout film and his manic, cock-eyed and very Keatonesque performance proved popular with the 80s audiences, on the other hand Winkler, certainly the bigger star at the time, played against type swimming upstream from the confident, all-fighting, all-loving Fonzie to play what is basically a cowardly dweeb for want of better description. It maybe did not help him that he played it very well showing a bigger range than early Keaton but audiences did not like or could not adjust to it. Aside from playing Fonzie for a few more years Winkler sort of disappeared whilst Keaton went from strength to strength.

The final member of the trio, and basically the film revolves around these three for the majority of the running time is Shelley Long, who cleverly booked a role in long-running TV success ‘Cheers’ whilst still popping up in mainly light frothy comedies. Here, much like a lot of her roles, she is not given a great deal to work with being the favourite of Hollywood an attractive, lovely, prostitute (I am using the vernacular of the time) who is smart, intelligent and kind. Sure, they will be out there but in the cinematic world there seems to be a lot. Having said that she plays this role to the hilt and the chemistry between her and the two male leads is up there to be seen.

Overall, where does Night Shift sit? The comedy revolves around the mismatch between the two male leads and at this point it works, Keaton and Winkler play off each other well and the mismatched friendship is believable, as is the romance between Long and Winkler despite the role Long is given. The rest of the story is problematic. I suppose in 1982 when I was 20 I would have laughed like a drain but viewing from 2023 we can see things we could not then,

We have, Gina Hecht, who plays Chuck’s attractive and slightly paranoid fiancé Charlotte, somehow being one the film’s more unattractive characters yet basically she does nothing wrong and is dumped. How many films have you seen where the original partner of a character is shown to be undesirable often by being normal? It was a trope in 1982 and it is a trope now. Tired, lazy and worn-out.

Then of course the whole topic of sex-workers exploitation. All the girls look exactly what you think they should look like at the time, except they are on the right side of attractive, not one of them drug-addled and worn out from the life they have led. Rather than beating a dead horse than you have read from better writers on the topic than me this all seemed to me to be a bit stereotypical and even for the eighties once again, a bit tired.

The film is comedic, yet there are murders, women being exploited and beaten, men earning from immoral purposes, I mean I am not one for stopping distasteful comedy but I think when you get into this territory you need to try to have an underlying message to give the comedy some substance. Night Shift mostly misses this target and let us face it even back then it was a fairly big and easy target to make a statement.

Night Shift is worth watching to see Henry Winkler showing what a good actor he is and the start of Michael Keaton’s screen persona around that time and much like Winkler what an accomplished actor Shelly Long was.

Although despite this the truth is I probably would not watch it again

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