Down on his luck investigative journalist Irwin ‘Fletch’ Fletcher is given the news that a hardly remembered aunt has died. On the plus side she has bequeathed him a financially lucrative estate in Louisiana. Quitting his job he soon finds himself at the centre of a life threatening mystery involving murder, shady deals and a rather untrustworthy evangelist. A life threatening mystery in which his trademark investigative skills will come into play.
Four years after Chevy Chase brought the character of Fletch from page to screen he returned to the role to inform us that . . . Fletch Lives. Beginning in familiar fun territory with the reporter utilising a comic disguise whilst in the middle of a case, the film is a less than successful vehicle for Chase’s undeniable comic talents. Shortly after receiving the news of his inheritance there is a fun dream sequence, replete with dancing, singing and even animated animals a la Song Of The South but alas the film doesn’t really live up to this initial inventiveness. This is most evident when the film has to veer away from the comedy and deal with the plot, it feels as if the filmmakers are impatient to get back to the one-liners. As a consequence so too is the viewer as all the exposition is delivered in a purely functional way. There is no real sense of mystery or excitement as revelations and twists are revealed, and you get the feeling that director Michael Ritchie, who did a good job with the first film, is uncomfortable here when he has to play it straight. A shame because the mystery element could have complemented the comedy with a few tweaks to the screenplay. But then again, despite its narrative structure following the whodunit conspiracy model Fletch Lives is really an excuse for Chevy Chase to deliver sarcastic dialogue and assume different wacky personas. Thank god then that he is a master at this sort of stuff, always ready with a perfectly judged put down and comic caricature when your interest in the movie is waning.
Chase is supported by some fine actors such as Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles) as his servant Calculus, R. Lee Ermey as television evangelist and proprietor of Bibleland Jimmy Lee Farnsworth and Hal Holbrook as the helpful character of Southern lawyer Hamilton Johnson. They are on hand to flesh out the movie and do as good a job as can be expected, keeping things moving along. The classic eighties score by Harold Faltermeyer is also ever-present and gives the film a sense of pace that the direction lacks.
Whilst there were many highly enjoyable movies of this ilk doing the rounds at the time, and many of them featuring Chevy Chase, Fletch Lives is an undeniable example of one of the less successful comedies that seemed to get released on a weekly basis in the eighties. Having said that, if you enjoyed the first meeting with Fletch then the sequel is definitely worth watching for another dose of well timed comic delivery by Mr Chase. It’s just a shame that he’s let down by a poor script. Maybe the rumoured revival of the Fletch character by Kevin Smith will retain the qualities that made the first film so successful, but it seems unlikely that Chevy will be asked to reprise what should have become an ongoing role.
American director, from television, whose films of the 1970s showed an interesting, sardonic take on America. After sour skiing drama Downhill Racer, he had an unhappy experience on the bizarre Prime Cut before a run of acclaimed movies: political satire The Candidate, the excellent Smile, coarse comedy The Bad News Bears, and another sporting comedy Semi-Tough.