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‘Fletch Lives’ doesn’t hold a candle to the original

PHOTO PROVIDED The poster for “Fletch Lives” is pictured.

While I was watching “Christmas Vacation” during the holiday season, I once again marveled at the comedic talents of Chevy Chase. He has a lot of funny films outside of the “Vacation” series.

Although we are nearly two years into the “Throwback Thursday” reviews, the only Chase vehicle I could remember reviewing was “Fletch.” I debated watching some other Chase films, maybe “Spies Like Us” or “Modern Problems,” but being the cheapskate that I am, I found “Fletch Lives” for free on one of the many streaming services, so I decided to give it a whirl.

I remember seeing “Fletch Lives” when it first came out in 1989. It appeared in theatres four years after the original “Fletch,” which was loosely based on a series of novels by Gregory McDonald.

When see Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher (Chase), he’s a still a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. In the sequel, Fletch is contacted by the executor of his late aunt’s will, attorney Amanda Ray Ross. Ross informs Fletch he has inherited his aunt’s 80-acre plantation, Belle Isle, in Thibodaux, La. Upon arriving, Fletch is disappointed to find the mansion terribly dilapidated, but he agrees to keep on as its caretaker, Calculus Entropy (the late, great Cleavon Little). Fletch has dinner with Ross at her home, and she tells him of an anonymous $225,000 bid for Belle Isle.

Fletch awakens the next morning to find Ross dead. Fletch is charged with Ross’ murder and taken into custody. He’s nearly assaulted by his cellmate Ben Dover (former boxer Randall “Tex” Cobb). But he’s spared only because Dover is released on bail. Dover’s lawyer Hamilton “Ham” Johnson (Hal Holbrook) manages to get Fletch released.

When Fletch declines a second, even larger offer of $250,000 for Belle Isle, this time presented by realtor Becky Culpepper (Julianne Moore), he starts getting harassed. First, a hired group of Ku Klux Klansmen harass him. Then, an arsonist burns down the mansion. Finally, Ben Dover tries to kill Fletch during a raccoon hunt with some locals. Fletch discovers the land on Belle Isle is polluted by toxic waste. He determines to uncover the identity of the anonymous buyer, whom he suspects is attempting to intimidate him into selling.

The plot, as you can imagine, spins out of control from there. And that’s part of the problem with “Fletch Lives” — it’s just not as interesting as the original. For as silly as the original film was, the characters kept us interested. The acting in the first was also much better. Remember, the original “Fletch” featured the likes of Geena Davis, Tim Matheson, Joe Don Baker and George Wendt, just to name a few. The supporting characters in “Fletch Lives” aren’t nearly as good. Other than Little and Holbrook, there aren’t many memorable performances, though the late Phil Hartman has a small role.

It’s a shame, really. I feel like they could have made a few more “Fletch” films had the sequel been even passable. Instead, “Fletch Lives” wound up killing the franchise. Don’t get me wrong — Chase tries his best, but there are just too many jokes that fall flat. He can only do so much.

Simply put, if you are craving a Chase fix, avoid “Fletch Lives.” Just watch “Christmas Vacation” again.

“Fletch Lives” is rated PG for language, sexual innuendo and mild violence. It is available on numerous streaming services.

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Chris Morelli is a staff reporter for The Express.

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