Picks and Pans Review: Fletch Lives

updated 03/27/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/27/1989 01:00AM

Chevy Chase, Julianne Phillips

There's a brilliant section in this film where Chase, impersonating a faith healer, wanders onto a popular evangelist's TV show and has to improvise some on-the-spot healing. It's a fast, momentum-building bit in which Chase brings to bear his talent for mimicry and physical comedy. Such is this movie, however, that its rare funny moments stand out in all-too-clear memory. What they stand out from is Chase's by now standard, sneering movie-comic persona, which at times lapses into what he seems to think is a sneering leading-man movie persona. This sequel to Fletch, in which Chase played novelist Gregory McDonald's Los Angeles newspaperman-detective, seems to have a chip on its shoulder, daring an audience not to laugh. This, under the circumstances, is an easy dare to win, but that hardly warrants sitting through 95 minutes of Chase's smarmy pursuit of Julianne (Skin Deep) Phillips. Phillips's attempt at a Southern accent at least has an endearing kind of folly to it. She plays a real-estate agent who wants to buy the Louisiana estate Chase inherits. Hal (The Star Chamber) Holbrook as a lawyer who is Chase's neighbor oozes someone's idea of Southern charm. Cleavon (Blazing Saddles) Little has a clever moment or two as Chase's strangely un-obsequious caretaker. Michael Ritchie, Fletch's director, came back for more punishment, and the screenplay is by Leon (Moon over Parador) Capetanos. His script suggests there is humor in such pathetically unoriginal lines as "The morgue proved to be a dead end, but then I guess it is for most people." So maybe Chase was justified in resorting to mugging, grimacing and doing everything else but trying to wiggle his ears (save that one for the next sequel, Chev). (PG)

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