1985 in Film – Fletch

Release Date: May 31st
Box Office: $45,488,983

I fell asleep during this when I re-watched this. Not sure if that’s a comment on the film or my level of new parent tiredness. Can you class it as new parent tiredness when the baby is over a year old?

Anyway.

If you were to find a picture dictionary and look up the word “uneven career” then next to it would be a picture of Chevy Chase. Up and down and proper down and up.

Fletch sits in the middle of this and almost acts as a high point. Before this you look back to his first year at Saturday Night Live where his writing and on screen persona is credited with doing a lot to define the comedy of that show. After that you have his role in Caddyshack and the smash hit of the year before, National Lampoon’s Vacation.

After Fletch you have a couple of more hits with Spies Like Us and The Three Amigos but after that it’s a box office drop off of almost Eddie Murphyian proportions. It wouldn’t be until he was cast in Dan Harmon’s Communitythat he would begin to get close to his glory days.

Make no mistake about it, Chase is a funny man. That doesn’t sound like that much of a compliment but just look at his contempories; Belushi, Murray, Aykroyd, Williams, Martin, Radner, Ramis. It’s a list of comedy genius’s and Chase can stand along side them.

Not so much at the cinema. His better films seem to be when he is part of an ensemble; Caddyshack being the prime example of this, along with AmigosVacation would be the exception here, although despite being built around Chase the character of Griswald is much more repressed and put upon so it feels less like Chase playing himself.

In Fletch Chase is playing himself.

The eponymous Fletch is a reporter based in LA who, at the start of the film, is undercover as a junkie on the beach trying to break the story on a drugs ring. As he is there a man approaches him with an offer; $50,000 to kill him. Suffice to say Fletch begins to investigate and off we go.

It’s a noir-ish setup (the investigator being approached by an unknown person with a mysterious offer) but thats about as far as that goes. Having not read the original book it’s difficult to compare but it is known that the film changes a great deal from the source. This is obviously to fit in with Chase’s laconic persona and to give him plenty of opourtunities to be Chevy Chase.

How successful this is can be debated. The film was a decent sized hit at the time and became a cult favourite in the rental market. The flaws in the film stand out a mile though: the voice over sits on the film about as well as Ford’s did in Blade Runner; the Harold Falteymeyer soundtrack tries to re-capture the magic that helped with the success of Beverley Hills Cop the year before but fails; the plot meanders and just isn’t that interesting.

You can see why it’s a cult hit, but mainly for people who were around at the time. As a film to be discovered today it’s too uneven to be a true find. Spies Like Us from the same year is much more consistent, probably thanks to Chase being teamed up with Dan Aykroyd.

Chase clearly needs someone to play off and all Fletch does is parade a bunch of strawman authority figures in front of him rather than give him a true foil to work with. Seeing cool guys sticking it to the man is a very cool thing, but just having one guy doing it doesn’t always work. Even if that man has the skills of someone like Chevy Chase.

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