In 1980s Hollywood even a mildly successful film was supposed to get quick sequel. Fletch, 1985 crime comedy directed by Michael Ritchie, satisfied those criteria and in 1989 Ritchie directed sequel titled Fletch Lives. In it Chevy Chase returned in the role of Irving “Fletch” Fletcher, Los Angeles investigative reporter known for his disguise and impersonation skills. Plot begins when he learns that one of his aunts died and left him large plantation in Lousisiana, which prompts him to quit his job and fly there. He finds that the plantation is actually terribly dilapidated, but Amanda Ray Ross (played by Patricia Kalember), executor of late aunt’s will, informs him that someone wants to purchase property for surprisingly large amount of money. Soon afterwards Ross dies after sleeping with Fletch, who gets arrested for her murder. He is released with the help of local lawyer Hamilton “Ham” Johnson (played by Hal Holbrook) and, despite numerous attempts of intimidation, decides to stay and investigate the matter. Trail leads to Jimmy Lee Farnsworth (played by R. Lee Ermey), flamboyant and influential televangelist who is also interested in obtaining the property. He also meets attractive real estate agent Becky Culpeper (played by Julianne Phillips) who is actually Farnsworth’s daughter.
Unlike the first film, which was based on the novel by character’s creator Gregory McDonald, script by Leon Capetanos is original. The basic idea of switching the plot from Los Angeles to American South appears to have exhausted all creative energy of its author. The only scene that put new setting to good use is Fletch’s fantasy including spectacular half-animated dance and song which was clearly inspired by classic Disney film Song of the South; sadly due to that film’s controversial (and allegedly racist) content that forced Disney to bury it in the vault, most of the audience won’t get the joke. The rest of the film bases humour on predictable and tiresome cliches about Southerners that paint them as completely ignorant, moronic and racist troglodytes. There is some mild attempt to poke fun at televangelists, people who were hated by Hollywood with passion, being seen as serious competitors in struggle for hearts, minds and money of naive Americans. However, the main failure is in the poorly written protagonist. In Fletch he was cynic, but he nevertheless cared about his beloved Los Angeles and its people. In Fletch Lives he looks at South as hostile foreign country, with its inhabitants deserving of mockery and exploitation. Scene when he coldly reacts to the death of a woman with whom he had sex brands him as nothing short of psychopath. After that, it is getting increasingly difficult to sympathise with him and the weak plot with even weaker murder mystery loses much of its importance. The only thing that makes this film watchable are the efforts of supporting cast, mainly R. Lee Ermey who in the role of larger-tha-life televangelist shows how broadened his acting range following brilliant debut in Full Metal Jacket. Cleavon Little, who appears in the role of Fletch’s black helper Calculus, is also good but his potentially intriguing character is underwritten, while the cinephiles will be unpleasantly reminded of his brilliant performance in Blazing Saddles, vastly superior comedy.
RATING: 4/10 (+)
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Movie URL: https://www.themoviedb.org/movie/14628-fletch-lives