Michael Keaton as "Batman"?

Oops, sorry, wrong movie.

This one is "The Dream Team," and the wise-acre character Keaton plays is perfectly suited to his familiar screen persona.That character is a chronic liar with a penchant toward violence. He's part of a small therapy group, four misfits who fight constantly and are being held in a New Jersey psychiatric hospital.

Of the foursome, Keaton seems more angry than crazy, while his companions - Christopher Lloyd as an authoritarian who thinks he's a doctor, Peter Boyle as an overbearing stiff-neck with a messianic complex and Stephen Furst as a baseball freak who speaks only baseball lingo and occasional TV commercial phrases - probably belong where they are.

While it's obvious this is low-rent "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," the plot takes one small idea from that film and stretches it to feature length. The four go on a field trip to Manhattan with their doctor (Dennis Boutsikaris). Then he disappears and they're on their own. It seems the doc witnessed a killing, lands in the hospital and now, of course, the bad guys want to kill him. So it's up to the "Dream Team" to save the day.

This plot, especially the more violent moments with the bad guys, is problematic not only because it's intrusive - and it is - but also because it is so dumb it never makes any sense.

There is, of course, also the question of whether, in this enlightened age, we should be laughing at people with mental problems. But to the credit of director Howard Zieff ("House Calls," "Private Benjamin") and first-time screenwriters John Connolly and David Loucka, these guys all have their own sense of dignity, and though we laugh, it's not really at these guys so much as the situations that cause them to react as they do.

A large part of the credit for that also goes to the actors, all fine and distinctive here, with Keaton shining in the kind of smart-aleck role he does best, Lloyd fine as the straight member of the bunch and Stephen Furst endearing in what is largely a pantomime role. Boyle is also good, though having his self-righteous "savior" punctuate jokes with profanity isn't funny the second and third time. Come to think of it, it's not very funny the first time.

Still, while "The Dream Team" is too bogged down in sentiment and that silly shoot-'em-up subplot to really break out and do what it does best, when it's funny, it's very funny. If only there weren't so many draggy spots forcing the film to work itself back into our favor again.

"The Dream Team" is rated PG-13 for violence, profanity and nudity (Boyle in an early scene).