Just recently I’ve had a bit of a Chevy Chase binge. He was a favourite actor of mine in the 1980s – without question when he was at his peak – and from time to time here in the 2020s I will see YouTube videos about ‘what happened to…’ or perhaps trying to stir up trouble over how difficult he can be to work with, and they will remind me of the guy, usually leading to watching his films.
Fletch is one of the Chase movies from the 80s that I probably watched least as a kid because I didn’t fully appreciate it. Originally a novel written in the mid 70s, giving Fletch the background of an ex-marine turned journalist (although there’s nothing in the film to suggest his marine background), there’s a real seriousness to the investigation the character conducts throughout the film.
So although, yes, this is absolutely a comedy, there’s still a vibe to proceedings that didn’t quite grab 10 year old me like watching Vacation for the 48th time did. Watching this as an adult, however, I just eat it up. Chase delivers some hilarious lines and the mystery at hand still draws me in every time.
It’s because of the mystery, that it’s hard to say too much about the plot without giving it away, but I can say that the background of Chase being picked up off a beach by a guy who thinks he’s just some junkie bum (when in reality he’s doing an undercover story for his newspaper column), and then offering him a huge amount of money to murder him in a few days time (to put him out of his misery of having terminal bone cancer), is a hell of a set-up. Where can it go from there? Watch the movie!
Weirdly, my only complaint about the film after recently re-watching it is how poor the continuity is. Chase’s hair goes from short-ish to long-ish, and back again, several times in the film. And not because he’s donning one of his famous disguises. You can almost see how they must have filmed several disparate scenes one week, while other scenes were filmed a month or two later… yet they’re edited together in the film back-to-back and no one on the production seems to have stopped and thought, “Hey, Chevy’s hair is two inches longer here…” It’s not a big deal and that’s precisely why I highlight it here. In other words, dear reader, if that’s my big complaint, you can see I must really like the film.
If someone was to ask me today to point them at a great Chevy Chase movie from the 80s, while Vacation probably still is the sentimental favourite, I don’t think Fletch is far behind. It’s a very different sort of film in terms of storyline, even if Chase’s shtick isn’t too different between both.