Tag Archives: Chevy Chase

Fletch Lives (1989)

fletch lives

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Reporter inherits a mansion.

Fletch (Chevy Chase) who writes for a Los Angeles newspaper under the byline of Jane Doe, receives to his surprise an inheritance of an old southern mansion. He immediately travels to the place while quitting his job in the process. The building is in bad shape, but he finds that he is receiving a generous offer to sell it, which makes him curious. Instead of taking the offer he does some research and finds that the property is a dumping ground for dangerous chemicals and that people are more than happy to murder him and others in order to keep them quiet about it.

The first film was based on a novel by George Macdonald, but this story was written directly for the big screen and the mystery is uninspired and obvious. Chase’s detached persona and acerbic wit gets put to a real test here. One scene has him discovering that the woman who he has just spent the night with is now dead, but he shows no shocked reaction at all making him seem almost inhuman. He then decides to smart-off to the police when they arrive to investigate even though any sane/half-way intelligent person would realize that would just get them into even more trouble, which it justifiably does here.

The character also has an unrealistically massive-sized ego especially in regards to his job and the arrogant way that he deals with his boss (Richard Libertini) acting almost like he is above the rules and can come and go whenever he pleases without having to answer to anyone. Now this behavior to some extent could be more justified if he was writing under his own name and had a large fan following, but to the readers he is just ‘Jane Doe’ and for all they know he is a woman instead of a man. In either case he could easily be replaced by another reporter writing under the same byline and no one would notice or care, which makes his entitled attitude completely out-of-line and one that should have gotten him fired long ago.

There is also no explanation to what happened to the Gail character, which was played by Dana Wheeler-Nicholson. The first film ended with the two of them supposedly falling-in-love, but in this film she has completely disappeared. Now the first installment came out 4 years earlier and a lot of relationships don’t last that long, so it’s possible that they simply broke-up and moved-on, which is fine. However, in this movie her character gets replaced by one who looks just like her (Julianne Phillips) and she falls-in-love with Fletch in much the same way making the plotline seem highly formulaic and like they are simply replacing one blue-eyed, blonde bimbo with another.

The humor is generic and juvenile although I’m ashamed to say I did find myself chuckling at some of it. The best moment is a take-off on The Song of the South that comes complete with animation and by far the film’s one and only inspired moment.

The action sequences are flat. In the first film there was an exciting car chase, which was passable, but here we get treated to a motorcycle chase that goes completely off the believability meter by having Fletch do stunts that no one with limited driving experience would try nor survive.

The supporting cast is wasted especially Hal Holbrook in a part that is completely beneath his talents. However, I did get a kick out of R. Lee Ermey. He gained a major cult following from his performance as a tough sergeant in Full Metal Jacket and gets cast here as a TV-evangelist, which I found interesting.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 17, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Michael Ritchie

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Fletch (1985)

fletch 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Reporter has many disguises.

Irwin ‘Fletch’ Fletcher (Chevy Chase) works as a newspaper reporter writing articles under the byline of Jane Doe. While working on a story involving drug dealing at a nearby California beach he gets approached by Alan Stanwyck (Tim Matheson) who offers him a large sum of money to kill him. It seems that Mr. Stanwyck has been diagnosed with cancer and has only a short time to live. He wants Fletch to ‘put him out of his misery’ by entering his home at a certain day and time and offing him while making it look like it was just a random robbery gone bad. Initially Fletch agrees to do it, but then begins to do some research on Mr. Stanwyck and finds things just don’t add up.

Out of all the characters that Chase has played this one best suits his talents and personality. His deadpan delivery has always been his major selling point and this part takes full advantage of it while accentuating his smart-ass persona and minimizes the silly pratfalls, which were never funny anyways. The first half clicks nicely and it’s great to have a main character whose personal life is a realistic struggle as he lives alone in a depleted looking apartment complex and bitterly avoiding a divorce lawyer (George Wyner) representing his wife who cheated on him.

The plot is genuinely intriguing and had me hooked. Unfortunately the story takes on too much as it also continues to incorporate elements of the drug dealing at the beach story, which makes things too convoluted especially since the murder-for-hire scheme gets complex enough. The overblown idea to somehow tie both story threads together at the end is a misfire and an overreach. The ultimate explanation for why Stanwyck wanted Fletch to kill him is really lame and a big letdown.

The film is also too long and the humor loses its edge as it progresses. The idea that this reporter would so cleverly be able to infiltrate hospitals and businesses in order to get the information that he wanted is hard to believe and it would have come off better had his profession been a private investigator instead. Chases’s insubordinate behavior towards his boss (Richard Libertini) including at one point even giving him the one-finger-salute is pretty outrageous and would most assuredly get anyone else in the same circumstance fired and deservedly so. I was also unhappy with the portrayal of the cops as they are all shown to be corrupt, abusive and vulgar. Yes I realize there are bad cops out there, but there are also a lot of good ones too and this film makes no attempt to balance that.

Chase gets featured in every scene, so if you are not exactly a fan of his your tolerance will certainly be tested. The film does feature a plethora of familiar faces in minor roles many of whom are wasted although I did enjoy Geena Davis as Fletch’s faithful assistant.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: May 31, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Michael Ritchie

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Modern Problems (1981)

modern problems

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chevy acquires telekinetic powers.

Being dumped by his girlfriend (Patti D’Arbanville) and working a stressful job as an air traffic controller Max (Chevy Chase) finds himself falling into a deep depression. Then one night while following a truck home that is carrying nuclear waste he and his car get sloshed with a greenish liquid that spews out the back end of the truck’s tank. Soon afterwards he realizes that he can make objects move and uses this new found ability to try and win his girlfriend back while getting revenge on her new boyfriend (Mitch Kreindel).

The film is written and directed by Ken Shapiro who earlier teamed up with Chase to do The Grove Tube and like with that one the story is widely unfocused throwing in gags that have nothing to do with the central theme. It takes too long for Max to acquire his special powers and when he does it doesn’t go far enough with it wasting a potentially creative idea on what turns out to be just another comedy dealing with modern day relationships. The movie is horribly dated with a bit having Chase sniff up some white ‘demon dust’ in a not so subtle take on cocaine that at a time when free basing was still considered trendy might’ve been considered ‘cool’ and ‘hilarious’ by its intended audience. The opening segment is insulting to actual air traffic controllers as it makes them all look like they’re lazy and incompetent and the silly cartoon-like sounds added to the special effects gives the whole thing a very kiddie-like feel.

The logic of this thing is crazy as well. I realize being exposed to nuclear waste can bring cancer, birth defects and a wide assortment of other ailments, but nowhere have I read that it can cause telekinesis making the whole premise dumb and dubious from the start. The idea of having all these amazing powers, but only using them sparingly while moping around hoping somehow to get back into his girlfriend’s favor seems quite limiting as most people with his abilities would have much broader ambitions like saving the world or even conquering it for that matter. Although politically incorrect there could’ve been a wide array of things that he could’ve done to ‘win his girlfriend back’ like suspending her in mid-air until she agrees to see him exclusively. Also, when he notices that he is glowing green and has spots all over his face when looking into a mirror you would think he would immediately run to the nearest doctor, but doesn’t and when he finally does expose his powers to everybody else by levitating the Dabney Coleman character the other people in the room respond with a ho-hum attitude instead of screaming and running away like a normal person would.

Chase’s deadpan talents get wasted here and during the second half he becomes almost comatose during a lame parody of The Exorcist. Dabney Coleman gets equally wasted as he speaks in a weird accent while playing his trademark egotistical character that for some reason isn’t as engaging as it usually is. You also get to see a shot of his bare ass, which to me wasn’t a good thing, but there is a thread on IMDB with people stating in all seriousness that it is one of the ‘best looking asses ever’, ‘pure perfection’ and ‘the greatest moment in cinema history’, so I guess to each his own.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: December 25, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Ken Shapiro

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Christmas Vacation (1989)

christmas vacation 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Christmas at the Griswold’s.

It’s the season to be merry and to celebrate Clark (Chevy Chase) gets a tree that is too big for their house and his hopes of installing a backyard pool are dashed when his holiday bonus check doesn’t arrive. Meanwhile their home gets crammed with in-laws including his hillbilly cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) who never ceases to be obnoxious and crude.

I first saw this movie upon its release and didn’t much care for it, but upon second viewing I found it a bit more appealing. The humor isn’t exactly sophisticated or original, but manages to be amiable enough to be entertaining. Some of my favorite moments were just the small things like the way Clark angrily kicks the toy Santa in his front yard when he can’t get his outdoor Christmas lights to work or even the goofy reindeer glasses that Clark and Eddie drink eggnog out of. Clark’s innuendo filled stammering when aroused by a beautiful young saleslady is nothing new, but always funny especially with the way Chase does it. The running dialogue is full of amusing lines and good enough to spring up Quote-a-long film showings of this picture at many chain theaters including the Alamo Drafthouse Theater here in Texas.

Even though it has acquired a fervent cult following and been judged a ‘classic’ by some it still has its fair share of issues. For one thing they had too many in-laws over to fit into that mid-sized house and I wondered where they all slept and showing Rusty their teenage son sleeping in the same bed with his teenage sister seemed to border on the perverse. The film also has a frustrating tendency to not follow through with all of its gags including the part where Clark falls through the floorboards of his attic and into the top bunk bed of son’s bedroom below, which I’m sure would’ve caused a lot of issues, but we’re never shown it. The virtually plotless script by John Hughes, which relies solely on rapid-fire gags becomes a bit derivative and tedious by the final half-hour and is saved only by a funny squirrel attack as well as an S.W.A.T. team ambush. I also felt a bit uncomfortable laughing at a cat getting electrocuted, which the studio was going to cut, but then left in when it proved popular with test audiences

Young Juliette Lewis is cute and my favorite of the rotating Audrey’s. Beverly D’Angelo is the hottest MILF out there and I was a little shocked at the way she seems to grab Chase directly on his crotch during the S.W.A.T scene. I liked the veteran cast that made up the grandparents, but outside a few cryptic lines by E.G. Marshall they are essentially wasted especially Doris Roberts and Diane Ladd who play the two grandmothers and don’t have more than a few lines between them. Quaid is a scene stealer, but he gets a bit crude in spots. It’s fun seeing Mae Questal best known as the voice of Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in her final film role as a daffy, elderly aunt and I also enjoyed Nicholas Guest and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Griswold’s neighbors. They are portrayed as being this annoyingly pretentious, trendy yuppie couple, but the truth is I started to sympathize with them as their house continually gets damaged by Clark’s mishaps and I would have ended up being even more outraged and confrontational than they were had I been in their spot.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 1, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Jeremiah Chechik

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube