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FLETCH

From the May 31, 1985, Deseret News

FLETCH — Chevy Chase, Joe Don Baker, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Richard Libertini, Tim Matheson; rated PG (violence, profanity).

Chevy Chase; you either like him or you don't. At least that's been the problem with most of his movies over the past seven years.

Chase's "wise guy" screen persona can be very irritating, often causing a distancing effect between Chase and the audience as he mugs through a caricature instead of creating a real person.

But with "Fletch," Chase has warmed up. He's still a smart aleck but he's a much more lovable smart aleck, and his acerbic asides seem more in keeping with the tone of the entire film, helping develop a better ensemble effort.

To Chase's fans, of course, all this is so much critical mumbo-jumbo. All they want to know is whether Chase has picked a better script than some of his previous efforts — less-than-hilarious efforts such as "Deal of the Century," "Caddyshack," "Modern Problems," etc.

The answer is, yes.

"Fletch" may look somewhat familiar (call it "Beverly Hills Honky," right down to the Harold Faltermeyer score) but it's clever, witty smart, has some good thriller sequences and is funny. It's not the film of the year but "Fletch" should prove to be a solid hit for Chase, putting him back on top of the movie comedy heap.

Chase plays I.M. Fletcher, the unorthodox investigative reporter for a Los Angeles newspaper dreamed up in a series of novels by Gregory McDonald. Though I haven't read the books, my guess is that McDonald's "Fletch" doesn't have quite the same turn with a quip that Chase's "Fletch" does. At one point he is asked, "Do you crack jokes about everything?" You'd better believe it.

The plot has Chase posing as a beach bum trying to get the goods on drug traffic for a major expose he is researching when he is approached by Tim Matheson (who has played a number of "Chevy Chase"-type roles himself, but who's quite straight here).

Matheson wants to hire some anonymous soul as a hit man, claiming that he's dying of an incurable disease. If he is killed during a fake robbery at his home he can leave his wife a larger insurance settlement.

Naturally, Chase is intrigued — but he doesn't believe any of this for a minute. So he drops the drug investigation (to his editor's chagrin) and starts looking into Matheson's background, which puts him in some fast, wealthy company.

Eventually the two stories interconnect, and there's even some police corruption going on, with chief Joe Don Baker involved.

The twists and turns are interesting, if not always logical, and the pacing is very quick. Chase writes under the name "Jane Doe" for the paper and manages to get away with whatever he wants, no matter who he insults, and he won't win any prizes for journalistic integrity. But these lapses are forgivable in a farcical comedy.

Unfortunately, some other comic turns seem a bit contrived, such as the disguises Chase dons from time to time, some directly derived from Jerry Lewis — and no funnier. A basketball fantasy with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seems particularly out of left field.

In addition, Matheson and the very talented Richard Libertini have absolutely nothing to do in this picture, which seems an especially sad waste of talent in a film that could better use its oddball supporting characters.

Despite such digressions, however, "Fletch" still works as a highly entertaining romp, a lighthearted comedy-thriller that provides the perfect showcase for Chase's talents. This is a star turn and Chase proves himself up to the task.

And there's a local angle, as well. Since part of the story is set in Provo (and the film was made partially in Utah), there are plenty of Utah jokes, a couple of them quite funny.

Rated PG for violence, profanity and an occasional vulgar innuendo, "Fletch" is solid entertainment.

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Column excerpt from the May 26, 1985, Deseret News

Movies rib Utah from time to time, and next week a film opens that offers more than its share of Utah jokes.

"Fletch," the new Chevy Chase comedy-thriller, is partially set in Provo, Utah (and was partially filmed in Salt Lake City) and throughout the film you hear such jokes as:

"You don't got to Utah to escape boredom."

"That makes him a bigamist — even in Utah!"

And there are others.

But it was interesting to find out quite accidentally on a trip to Los Angeles this past week that the number of Utah jokes in the film were considerably toned down.

On a tour of the Disney studios last Tuesday, I was shown the set of a new film going into production and the film's art director happened to be there. After an introduction, he mentioned that he had been in Utah last year shooting "Fletch," as art director on that film.

During the course of our brief conversation I mentioned that there were many Utah jokes in the film and he commented that after they were so well treated by John Earle and the Utah Film Development Office, the producers of the film felt bad about including so many negative jokes about Utah. As a result, a number of such jokes were excised during the final editing.

There are still some of those jokes in the film but it's interesting to note what a little positive PR can do for the image of the entire state.

Good for you, John, keep up the good work!