Relatives had loaned me their copy of that Chevy Chase film ages ago and yesterday I finally plugged the VCR in, dusted off the remote, and watched it. Going by the back of the box, I couldn’t tell exactly why they thought I might enjoy it but once the film got to the parts not listed on the back of the box, I busted a gut and thanked them aloud even though they weren’t in the room. What made the film so damn funny to me?
The mocking of televangelists, bible-based amusement parks and faith healing.
Chevy Chase plays Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher who learns he’s inherited a mansion in Louisiana and quits his reporter job to live the dream of a fine, upstanding, southern gentleman (horribly stereotyped: in his dream he performs a song from Song of the South – the one film Disney won’t produce for sale in the States). Arriving on his 80 acres he discovers a few things. The mansion is a wreck, his aunt changed her will a few weeks earlier so the owner of Bible Land wouldn’t get the property as a donation to expand his ministry, and a mysterious company is trying whatever it can to get the land, legally or otherwise.
Jimmy Lee Farnsworth (R. Lee Ermey) looks to be an amalgamation of many televangelists, like Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwel, and others who used their charisma and influence to bilk people out of their money. When the lawyer who drafted both wills suddenly dies, Fletch gets the journalism itch again and starts to investigate Farnsworth in case he was behind it.
It turns out he’s not; another elderly woman had been prayed/preyed upon by Farnsworth to give all her money to the church after death, which left her son with a burning urge for hard-core revenge. Fletch manages to stop the man but not before he puts his plan into action: poison the land and anyone who’d try to build on it. Farnsworth doesn’t get off clean, though. It turns out the FBI has been investigating his finances and cable show so presumably he wasn’t going to be able to expand anyway.
Not a fabulous movie by any stretch, but it’s fun and neat to see Chase be so many different kinds of characters depending on what he needs for the scene. I haven’t seen many of his films so I might have to try others now.