This is one of those movies that was great in the day and is marginally good now. Chevy Chase's last big hurrah came at a time when his levelheaded coolness was still intact, but hints of his goofball, manic acting were starting to take over. It just seems like Chase now has become Clark Griswold (his Vacation movie persona) in every movie, and that's not a good thing.
Chase was at his best in Caddyshack, where he had that laid-back wisecracker thing going. This is the film where he came closest to that greatness. As reporter Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher, he was working with a good director (Michael Ritchie, maker of The Bad News Bears), and the franchise looked to be Chase's Beverly Hills Cop. Then came the acrid Fletch Lives, and it was all over for Chase as the character.
It's not as funny as I remembered, but Chase does have some of his best onscreen moments here. I loved the car chase (with Jim Bob Walton as his passenger) where he kept a comedic dialogue going while driving at high speeds. Some of his disguises are fun, especially the airplane mechanic who orders up Quaker State antifreeze.
There had been talk of a new and younger Fletch, but I wouldn't be opposed to seeing Chase take a crack at an older incarnation of the character. The man's career is toast, and that could be a decent return for the former superstar. He really was a comic gem in those earlier films, before European Vacation and Cops and Robbersons (also with Ritchie) left his stardom in ruins. That damned late-night talk show didn't help matters, either.
Special Features: There's a terrible documentary on the film, with no participation from Chase, who is probably too bitter to contribute.
There are three films in this very nicely priced collection of Clint Eastwood Westerns. One of those films happens to be an Eastwood best, High Plains Drifter. His second feature directorial effort totally turns the traditional American Western upside down, with Eastwood playing "The Stranger," a lonely horseman riding into the town of Lago (later renamed Hell) and taking over.
Eastwood is such a badass here. Look at the character as a young William Munny, the character he would play down the road in Unforgiven. Within the first 20 minutes of the movie, he guns down three men and has his way with a local girl, and he's only getting started. He's hired to protect the town from three outlaws, a job he takes reluctantly.
Watching this again, I was taken by the film's plot similarities to Blazing Saddles, which came out the year after (John Hillerman, who would play Howard Johnson in Saddles, even has a role). Another cool thing would be the presence of many actors, including Geoffrey Lewis and Anthony James, who would star again with Eastwood in films like Unforgiven.
The package includes two other films, including the silly Two Mules for Sister Sara, co-starring Shirley MacLaine as a nun, with Eastwood doing a milder incarnation of his character from the Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns. It's a little goofy, but good for some laughs. Joe Kidd, another standard but enjoyable Western with Eastwood released before things got ugly with Drifter, rounds things out. Movie Grades: High Plains Drifter (A-); Two Mules for Sister Sara (B-); Joe Kidd (B).
Special Features: You'll get nothing--and like it!
I've been a little behind on the high-definition DVD thing. I'm one of those consumers waiting for the format war between HD-DVD and Sony Blu-Ray to settle. This is the first disc I've observed on Sony Blu-Ray, and yes indeed, the disc produces a damn nice picture and sound.
As of right now, there is a player that plays both high-definition formats, but it is pretty costly. If you've upgraded your TV set, then you might as well upgrade your DVD player for maximum output. This disc looks great.
As for the movie, it was a near miss for me in theaters, but I was blown away by the home entertainment upgrade on the DVD, and I must admit that I enjoyed the film a little more. The story gets out of hand with the sentimental stuff, but Ben Stiller has some good moments as a museum security guard who battles artifacts when they come to life. Seeing Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney go evil is a kick. The monkey slap-fight is priceless.
Special Features: You are better off with the standard DVD, two-disc edition, if it's supplements you crave. The Blu-Ray disc only has a commentary, while the two-disc edition is packed.