Alan Smithee Podcast 81: Fletch (1985, Michael Ritchie) / Fletch Lives (1989, Michael Ritchie)

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Have you heard the news, makin’ all the headlines? An Alan Smithee Podcast is workin’ overtime, going bit by bit one way or another and diggin’ into the Chevy Chase quasi-classic Fletch…and its fully reprehensible sequel Fletch Lives.

Chevy Chase’s detractors have always had their work cut out for them: the diminishing returns of the Vacation franchise, the many starring roles he bombed in (Under the Rainbow, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Cops and Robbersons) the five fabulous weeks of The Chevy Chase Show…Chase’s fans, however, are usually split on which was his more successful comedy persona: the smart-alec lothario or the doofy husband. Fans of the latter are stronger proponents of Vacation and Funny Farm while fans of the latter gravitate towards his Weekend Update run on Saturday Night Live or role in the ensemble of Caddyshack as his best work. For fans of the latter, Fletch may well be the apex of his career. For 90-some minutes he dryly narrates, wisecracks and plays dumb through a story that’s rooted in the mystery genre just enough to take seriously, but with a tone that’s lighthearted enough to work perfectly as carefree entertainment. It was all downhill after this for Chase, as every subsequent film and appearance felt like an impossible attempt to meld the smarmy and the bourgeoisie sides of himself into something for everybody.

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Fletch actually has a shelf life beyond fans of casual or hardcore fans Chevy Chase. In the nearly 30 years since its release, obsessing on the film’s wealth of quips and one-liners has become a calling and a joke onto itself. This blurb from The Onion in 1999 describes an Area Insurance Salesman celebrating his 14th year of quoting Fletch:

Cutler, who also goes by the name “Dr. Rosenrosen,” dead-panned, “Never mind, just bring me a cup of hot fat and the head of Alfredo Garcia.”

This possibly inspired the New York Post to write an actual short piece about Fletch fandom just a few months later, with some keen insights as to its durability from its makers:

Chase thinks that the movie continues to appeal to college students because of “the cheekiness of the guy … everybody at that age would like to be as quick-witted as Fletch, and as uncaring about what others think.”

The same glowing article also ends with a withering comment from screenwriter Andrew Bergman, however, summing up how Chevy and Michael Ritchie screwed the pooch four years later:

Bergman says that if Chase “hadn’t screwed up the second one, he could have been Clouseau – he could have done that part forever.”

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“The second one” is of course Fletch Lives, one of the most execrable bad comedy sequels we’ve ever viewed for An Alan Smithee Podcast – even worse than Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise. The problems are so myriad that it would take less time to describe what the film does right – like casting Chevy Chase again – but those were some bad four years in between and even that decision is debatable. The world got one more Harold Faltemeyer score, and Hal Holbrook got a paycheck, but was it worth it? To quote yet another newspaper on this would-be news reporter comedy franchise, Vincent Canby got it exactly right in his New York Times review:

“Fletch Lives looks less like Fletch 2…than Fletch 7, the bitter end of a worn-out series.”

Ten years after Fletch Lives there was serious talk from Kevin Smith about relaunching Fletch with Jason Lee as the young Irwin Fletcher, and possibly Chase narrating the tale in flashback – a prequel based on Gregory MacDonald’s prequel novel Fletch Won (Won/One, geddit?) The project has changed hands on the writing, directing and starring fronts a half-dozen times since then, with everyone from Ben Affleck to Zach Braff to Dave Chappelle(!) being considered. Another ten years after the first rumblings for the return of the wisecracking reporter, any news that Fletch will, indeed, live another day still seems rather unlikely. Why? BECAUSE FLETCH LIVES WAS THAT HORRIBLE. A very informative Entertainment Weekly article outlines the whole sordid saga here.

NEXT EPISODE: THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960, ROGER CORMAN) & PLEASE DON’T EAT MY MOTHER (1973, CARL J. MONSON)

Episode 41: Batman (1989, Tim Burton) Commentary Track Special

We the hosts of An Alan Smithee Podcast do not take the responsibility of heralding Batman ’89 over Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins or The Dark Knight lightly.

Nor do we waver on the Solomonesque division of Tim Burton’s career into one brilliant period (1985 – 1996) and one banal (1999 – present.) The recent release of Alice In Wonderland 3-D has reminded us that everyone and their dog has an opinion on Tim Burton just as The Dark Knight gave everyone an opportunity to spout their two bits on Batman and Batman vis-a-vis Tim Burton, as the two names are after all forever related. The funny thing is that almost everyone is simply repeating something they heard from someone else or read on the Internet.

Listen, we mustn’t compare ourselves to regular people. We’re critics.

That’s why this week on An Alan Smithee Podcast we’ve recorded our second commentary track special since Rick Rosenthal’s Halloween II, so as to better enlighten the masses.

With incredible new “start the movie and this MP3 at the same time” technology, you’ll be privy to two hours and 6 minutes of hardened analysis from the two most level headed Batman and Tim Burton fans on the planet. Aspects mentioned in our commentary track include the The Dark Knight‘s plagiarism of the film, the hammy performances of William Hootkins and Jack Palance, the utter brilliance of Sam Hamm, Kim Basinger’s golddigging, the influence of Warner Brothers gangster movies, the tyranny of Prince, the tyranny of Jon Peters, how to quote Robert Wuhl in your everyday life, our mixed feelings on the Batwing, Batman and The Joker’s (separate) sex lives, how to quote Joseph Stalin in your everyday life, and the crazy eyed greatness of Michael Keaton.

NEXT WEEK: BLACK NARCISSUS (1947, MICHAEL POWELL & EMERIC PRESSBURGER) & COBRA (1986, GEORGE P. COSMATOS)

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Episode 20: Rooftops (1989, Robert Wise) / Matinee (1993, Joe Dante)

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This week in An Alan Smithee Podcast, Andrew and Matt become the ninth and tenth people to have seen Robert Wise’s theatrical swan song, Rooftops. Wise sure does love New York City, and his depiction of rooftop runaways in a generic part of Brooklyn often feels like a musical about homelessness about to break out and bust a move. Lost in the big, dumb and loud Summer of 1989, people are wan to forget some of the smaller big, dumb and loud movies, one which Andrew calls the worst we’ve seen yet. Considering we just saw ’89s Tango & Cash, that’s impressive.

Then it’s on to Matinee, where Joe Dante gives us the warm enveloping American nostalgia of 1962 without all the bullshit, AND KIDS WHO CAN ACT! Where did he find them? Gremlins 2 writer Charlie S. Haas deftly and jauntily tell the story of many, many things converging at once: young monster movie fan Gene’s new friends and romances in a new Florida town, the Cuban Missile Crisis, of which Gene’s father is stationed near, Gene’s touching relationship with his younger brother, plus 1993’s big star draw: John Goodman as Lawrence Woolsey, the ultimate fictionalized caricature of William Castle the horror movie gimmick master.

Dante’s extended movie-within-a-movie of Woolsey’s bug transformation shocker MANT! is pitch perfect. One of the best and most profound comedies about the magic of movies, Matinee is like the bright and colorful counterpart to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, showing what movies mean to kids on the verge of adulthood and what the ritual of moviegoing meant to Americans of the atomic baby boom. Hence the mushroom cloud on the poster.

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NEXT WEEK: THE WAGES OF FEAR (1953, HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT) & TALK RADIO (1988, OLIVER STONE)

Episode 18: Tango & Cash (1989, Andrei Konchalovsky) / California Split (1974, Robert Altman)

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This week An Alan Smithee Podcast gets manly and shirtless with two of the 80s’ eightiest men’s men, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, starring in one of Jon Peters’ worst streams of consciousness: Tango & Cash. Stallone’s a yuppie hotshot cop and Russell’s just a hotshot cop. All they have in common is skull denting stupidity and gay panic, which only inflames when the pair are sent to prison. Can they stop talking about each other’s cocks in time to bust out and stop the diabolical Jack Palance before he over-the-tops his performance from Batman the same year? Well, no, Palance is ever hammier and he wears all an white suit like Colonel Sanders. Despite this, his flamboyance pales in comparison to the cock grabbing, cross-dressing antics of our boys as they barnstorm through scenarios that make not one luck of sense, ever. Also featuring free floating coked up screenwriter xenophobia towards minorities.

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Then, Robert Altman takes us someplace warmer and nicer with California Split, another buddy comedy featuring George Segal and Elliot Gould as compulsive gamblers at different points in their addiction. This film pulls few punches in the depiction of gambling while also playing things for laughs, making for a melancholy mood of poignancy and loss. Unlike Tango & Cash, Gould and Segal’s romance is soft spoken and romantic as one takes another under his wing to learn poker and a bromance to last the ages is born.

NEXT WEEK: EMPEROR JONES (1933) / BLOODRAYNE II: DELIVERANCE (2007)