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The Real Reason Why Chevy Chase Only Made Two Fletch Movies

"Fletch" is one of the movie series that time forgot. What once looked to be an indelible film character like Sherlock Holmes or whichever star gets born in each subsequent "A Star Is Born," is now a half-forgotten figure like Allan Quartermaine. The two "Fletch" movies are beloved by fans of that specific brand of post-"SNL" boomer comedy. "I always tell people at hotels to 'put it on the Underhills' account,'" Ben Affleck once said (via Entertainment Weekly), referring to a running joke in the film. "Only rarely do they know what I'm talking about. But when they do, I know I've met a kindred spirit." But those outside that target demo have no fond memories of charging anything to the Underhills.

How did this happen? "Fletch" was based on a book series that had a dozen volumes. They follow Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher (Chevy Chase), a Los Angeles Times reporter who gets involved in wacky yet still dangerous crimes. Fletch assumes various aliases, dons disguises, and generally doesn't take the threats against his life very seriously. They're the L.A. equivalent of Carl Hiaasen's weird Florida crime subgenre. More "Fletches" could have been made. But the second film, "Fletch Lives" also really sapped the franchise of any energy it once had.

Fletch was always tonally touchy

"Fletch" was written by "Blazing Saddles" co-screenwriter Andrew Bergman. Critics lauded the film's tone, and how the comedy both undermined and re-upped the danger Fletch found himself in. "In Fletch the quick, smartly paced gags somehow read as signs of vulnerability. Incidentally, they add greatly to the movie's suspense," the TIME review read. "Every minute you expect the hero's loose lip to be turned into a fat one."

But the tone shifted in "Fletch Lives." Bergman's more understated script was ditched in favor of one that leaned on the costume changes and broader gags. Per Entertainment Weekly, Chevy Chase didn't like all the ludicrous outfits, but admits that he "probably did it for the money."

Roger Ebert wasn't fully on board with Chase's shtick in the first "Fletch," writing that Chase always undercut scenes "with his monotone, deadpan cynicism, distancing himself from the material." This rote cynicism pervaded "Fletch Lives," according to the New York Times review which said it felt "less like Fletch 2...than Fletch 7, the bitter end of a worn-out series." 

A reboot has been in the works since 1997 — with Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Ryan Reynolds, Zach Braff, Dave Chappelle, Chris Tucker, and John Krasinski all considered for the title role at one time or another. The latest reboot attempt had Jon Hamm attached. We'll see if this one can find the correct balance of laughs and tension to make "Fletch" a household name again.