[box cover]

Fletch Lives

Though there was time when he was considered a premier comic actor, Chevy Chase has worn out his welcome in comedies with his incessant mugging and vocal gags (he's sunk so low that he has a 2003 listing on the IMDb for providing the voice of Cho-Cho, The Karate Dog — something so bad-sounding it couldn't be made up). Unlike Eddie Murphy or Bill Murray, Chase is only as good as the material he's given, and he can't save a sinking ship like they have in the past; whereas even bad Eddie Murphy movies have their moments, a bad Chase vehicle is insufferable. Fletch Lives (1989) is not one his worst — at least there's a story and murder mystery behind the film. When Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher (Chase) inherits a Southern estate, he gives up his investigative-reporting job to live the life of a rich southern gentleman. But when he finds the estate, it's an enfeebled house that's run by Calculus Entropy (Cleavon Little), who claims Fletch's family used to own his. After sleeping with his lawyer Amanda Ray Ross (Patricia Kalember), she winds up dead and Fletch ends up in jail and in the middle of a mystery. Someone's trying to buy his estate for $250,000, but the investigator in Fletch feels he must find out why they want his run-down property so much. All evidence points to shyster televangelist Jimmy Lee Farnsworth (R. Lee Emery). Real estate agent Becky Culpepper (Julianne Phillips) provides the compulsory love-interest, while Randall "Tex" Cobb plays the toughie who's introduced in jail wearing makeup and asking Chase to bend over. Chase lazily mugs his way through the movie while getting into disguises that allow him to do goofy voices, and he takes every softball double entendre the script pitches. Fletch Lives also has some boldly racist connotations with some of Fletch's behavior with Calculus, who is not what he seems. Directed by Michael Rithie (who also helmed the predecessor), the picture goes through the motions; every once in a while a joke clicks, and it's not too bad for what it is. And though the skewering of televangelists may be obvious, it's still a ripe target for satire. It's no substitute for Caddyshack, though. Universal presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and in 2.0 stereo surround. Trailer, keep-case.

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