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Everybody's talking about it. Already people are lined up around the block to see it. It's the most talked about film since "Gone With the Citizen Kane." It's made "60 Minutes," the cover of Time. It's on America's lips . . .

Oh, excuse me. This is the review for "Fletch Lives." I lied.

Not unlike investigative reporter and compulsive con artist I. M. Fletcher -- in other words, Chevy Chase. Chase is back, assuming you knew he had gone. He's tanned, he's healthy, he's coyly, infectiously misleading and insulting. He's back -- wait, I said that -- and doing fine in Sequel Hills, Calif. Sudden heir to a grand ole plantation house in New Orleans, he quits his newspaper job, hightails it to Dixie and, naturally, swipes sarcastically at everyone in his swath, including redneck bikers, rape-hungry prison inmates, the Klan, Christian broadcasters and live-in manservant Cleavon Little. If you appreciate his kind of drop-dead deadpan, you'll enjoy the journey south.

Asked what he'll do with his new life at Belle Isle, Chase answers, with mock-genteelity, "Oh I dunno, raise some chitlens . . . They're mean little animals but their coats are worth a fortune." But that idyllic life never quite happens. His "mansion" is a wreck, someone's making him a buyout offer he'd better not refuse, and a lot of people don't like him, particularly born-again TV preacher Jimmy Lee Farnsworth (a manically spirited R. Lee Ermey), who covets even more real estate for his Bibleland theme park. Other new neighbors include Hal Holbrook as a country lawyer with friendly advaaahs and Julianne Phillips as a real estate agent.

As studio caper comedies go (which is about as far as theme parks), "Fletch Lives" at least has an acerbic, if nasty vitality, which is infinitely preferable to the vacuous mush of "Twins," "Who's Harry Crumb?" and "Police Academy VI." And only Chevy Chase, L.A.'s most resourceful snob, can get away with it.

"Want to drive into Belle Isle?" he asks the woman he just had an intimate evening with. But she doesn't respond. He checks her pulse. She's dead. "Guess not," he says, bummed. Also a master of disguises, he joins a Klan rally claiming to be a distant California member, wows a born-again TV audience as psychic faith healer Claude Henry Smoot and convinces a Hell's Angels gang he's Ed Harley -- of Harley-Davidson. He also insists, at one point, that he's Nostradamus.

Whether the lines are funny, tasteless or not-so-funny, Chase keeps popping 'em; whether the scenes are from "48 HRS." or "Beverly Hills Cop," screenwriter Leon Capetanos keeps photocopying them; and director Michael Ritchie (who also directed "Fletch") makes everything move along to a frenetic zydeco soundtrack. Sooner or later, you'll find yourself laughing at something. Unless you're dead, too.

Thanks to Rotten Tomatoes

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