(1989)2Scott EngelThe question "When exactly did Chevy Chase become irrelevant?" is a difficult one to answer. 1989 could have been the year for him to reverse his downward slide, as he had the opportunity to revisit two of his most memorable roles, Clark W. Griswold of the Vacation films and Irwin Fletcher, the only guy who changes his identity more often than his underwear. Christmas Vacation worked, the latter did not. It's too bad, because the role of Fletch seemed almost tailor-made for Chase. But instead of being charming and goofy as in the first film, this time Chase comes off as smug, insulting, and, at times, racist. He is saddled with biting dialogue that is delivered with too much venom and not enough irony. The script doesn't help things by removing Fletch from L.A. -- where such hard-shelled attitudes fit with the landscape -- and relocating him south of the Mason-Dixon, surrounding him with every stereotype of Southern culture in the book. This is something we are supposed to forgive as the plot develops and no one is as pigeonholed as they first appeared, but these twists end up feeling contrived and insulting. The location does afford Chase the opportunity to dress both as a Klansman and a southern Baptist preacher for the funniest bits in the film. In fact, the only time the Chase is humorous is when he is donning a wig and taking on one of his many identities. All other times he is onscreen, it seems as if he feels he's above the film and his fellow cast members. Good for only a handful of laughs, Fletch Lives succeeded in killing what could have been a fun franchise and effectively marking the end of Chase's movie successes.