We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Why did Chevy Chase want to play I.M. Fletcher, the laconic hero of Gregory McDonald's, bestsellers? Was it because Chase saw a way to bring Fletch to life? Or was it, more likely, because Chase thought Fletch was very much like himself? The problem with "Fletch" is that the central performance is an anthology of Chevy Chase mannerisms in search of a character. Other elements in the movie are pretty good: the supporting characters, the ingenious plot, the unexpected locations. But whenever the move threatens to work, there's Chevy Chase with his monotone, deadpan cynicism, distancing himself from the material.
"Fletch" is not the first movie that Chase has undercut with his mannerisms, but it is the best one-since "Foul Play," anyway. His problem as an actor is that he perfected a personal style on "Saturday Night Live" all those many years ago, and has never been able to work outside of it. The basic Chevy Chase personality functions well at the length of a TV sketch, when there's no time to create a new character, but in a movie it grows deadening. "Fletch" is filled with a series of extraordinary situation, and Chase seems to react to all of them with the same wry dubiousness.
His character this time is an investigative reporter for a Los Angeles newspaper. Deep into an investigation of drug traffic on the city's beaches, Fletch is approached by a young man (Tim Matheson) with a simple proposition: He wants to be killed. The story is that Matheson is dying of cancer and wants to die violently so his family can qualify for enlarged insurance benefits but Fletch doesn't buy it. Something's fishy and Fletch pretends to take the job while conducting his own investigation.
The case leads him to an extraordinary series of interesting characters; the film's director, Michael Ritchie, is good at sketching human original, and we meet an aging farm couple in Utah, a manic editor, a no nonsense police chief, a mysterious drug dealer, a slimy doctor, a beautiful wife and a lot of mean dogs.
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