This Sequel Suicide kicked off Tuesday, obviously, with Fletch. I was a little hesitant to give this franchise the suicide treatment because from what I remembered, I really enjoyed both installments. Having refreshed my memory, that wasn’t a bad call.
Fletch (Chevy Chase) is a little worse for wear than when we left him. Investigative reporting for the same LA rag has left him bitter and frazzled, or maybe owing over four grand in alimony to his ex is the problem. Either way, Fletch is at his wits’ end when he receives news that his Aunt Bell has died and left him Bell Isle, an eighty-acre plantation in Louisiana. Fletch promptly quits and skedaddles to the bayou, hoping to live out his days in Southern luxury only to find Bell Isle in serious disrepair. Unfazed, Fletch rejects a sizable offer from a mysterious buyer and soon finds his life threatened. With Bibleland bumping against his aunt’s property, Fletch snoops into the holy theme park’s greedy proprietor, Jimmy Lee Farnsworth (R. Lee Ermey), only to discover an even deadlier secret.
During his jaunt down South, Fletch runs amok of the onliest characters. There’s the aforementioned reverend who has a knack for smacking the Devil even out of the unafflicted. Calculus Entropy (Cleavon Little) is Bell Isle’s caretaker, for whatever that’s worth. Hamilton ‘Ham’ Johnson (Hal Holbrook) is the epitome of the Southern gentleman, right down to his seersucker suit and two-tone shoes. Ben Dover (Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb) is a surly dead-horse molester, leader of the Nazi of Natchez biker gang, and all-around mean dude. And let us not forget the lovely young lady with eyes as clear blue as the Mississippi and a smile just as wide, realtor Becky Ann Culpepper (Julianne Phillips).
A dilapidated property that comes complete with death threats; you’d think Fletch would dive right into such a juicy mystery. In Fletch Lives, however, the mystery meanders its way into the story. The first act is clunky and lacks direction. There are only a few genuinely enjoyable moments, the scenes with Fletch and Ham being the first smoothly flowing sequences. Around the thirty-minute mark, Chevy and the gang start getting their act together and by the halfway point, Fletch Lives starts settling into that fun, familiar Fletch rhythm.
The second half shines as brightly as Farnsworth’s front teeth. All the aforementioned stereotypical supporting characters are finally put to good use. Fletch really delves into his bag of wacky characters, pulling out two of my favorites, Ed Harley and the faith healer Claude Henry Carlton Smmoot. If these guises don’t tickle your funny bone, I suggest you see a doctor.
Fletch Lives is rife with technical issues throughout. Most of Chevy and others’ dialogue is obviously dubbed. There are bad cuts and other editing issues as well as limited use of background music that sticks out like a sore thumb. When it’s all said and done, Fletch Lives comes together nicely, but ev’rything is not satisfactch’ll. That last half is four hearts of wonderful feeling, wonderful day, but the toxic opening mires the rating well below three. Just be thankful I believe the comical healing power of Claude Henry carries more weight than a little zip-a-dee-freakin-doo-dah.