You know what movies made more recently that are set in the 80s do wrong? They only use the famous and obvious music. "Bit by Bit"--the opening song for Fletch (not to mention Harold Faltermeyer's music) has a definitive 80s sound. Seriously, that song starts and I'm there in the 80s. Just like a lot of the music in Better Off Dead... or Say Anything. There's not a lot of music you'd still hear about on these soundtracks, but if you were there, watching these movies at the time, you've got sense memory of all of them.
Me--I'm back in the 80s again when I watch movies like this one. End of May, beginning of June, really. Last weekend, we saw Rambo: First Blood Part II and A View to a Kill. Rambo was #1 last week and will be again this weekend. Fletch will be #2 this weekend. #4 is Brewster's Millions; we won't see that until it's at a drive-in with A Nightmare on Elm Street a month into that film's run. Whenever that would be in the near future, it would be disappointing because we'd end up leaving during the first act of Nightmare. I wouldn't get to see that movie all the way through until it was on TV. Beverly Hills Cop was #5 in its 26th weekend, Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment #6 in its 10th. Saw those both in their respective opening weekends. #7 Mask I wouldn't see until video. #8 Desperately Seeking Susan, not until television. Same with #9 Code of Silence. Filling out the top ten was Witness in its 17th weekend. Saw that opening weekend.
Roger Ebert makes a pretty good assessment of Chevy Chase's performance(s) in his review of Fletch; "whenever the film threatens to work," he writes, "there's Chevy Chase with his monotone, deadpan cynicism, distancing himself from the material." I think Chase's usual mannerisms rather work for the character of Fletch, though. Maybe it's all of his various "characters" being a bit like his old sketch comedy, or maybe it's that Fletch is also a bit above the action, too smart for his own good, but not smart enough to keep his mouth from getting ahead of him a lot of the time. Fletch is very 80s. A smartass who is too good for awesome stuff he's getting to do, and we in the audience wish our lives were as interesting.
Like Lane Myer, for that matter. Sure, his girlfriend dumped him and he kinda lost his mind for a bit, but dude can ski, dude's got a Mustang, and dude gets the cute French girl. What else was there in the 80s? Fletch is smarmy and offputting but there's still a strange charm to him. Like Phil Connors. Maybe it's a sketch comedy thing. You need too many jokes so inevitably you've got to be mean or insane or both. But, you're funny, and we like funny.
In the 80s--you know, prime Ronald Reagan Cold War time--we loved characters like this. It's not that they are smart (though Fletch does seem smart); it's that they are smarter than they need to be. But, even more than that, they show off. Even when they shouldn't.
Maybe it was because I was a kid and I didn't know any better. Maybe it was because it was the tail end (not that we knew that) of the Cold War and I was being told in church and at school at the world was coming to an end and a character who was fun was just fine. Who cared if they were nice. Like Chris Knight in Real Genius... hell, like most any action hero from the 80s as well, John Matrix, John McClane, Martin Riggs. It was all about confidence and competence. We wanted heroes funnier than us, stronger than us, whatever-er than us.
And, I saw a whole lot of them. My family saw movies all the time. Went to the theater often, rented movies, watched them on television.
I wish more of that had rubbed off.
People that know me probably wish the opposite.