Friday, October 02, 2009

Ode to Chevy…

Have you seen the new sit-com, Community? It’s on Thursday nights and I’m really enjoying it. I’m enjoying it, I should say, in spite of Chevy Chase. Yes, Chevy Chase is in it. And he’s dreadful. And I’d like to explain why I think that’s so.

You see, I love Chevy Chase. He was, and probably still is, a terrific talent. But somewhere along his career path something happened, something awful, that turned everything upside down. I see Chevy Chase and I think of Buster Keaton. Not because of his great falls or his terrific timing. I think they both had very similar trajectories.

Like Keaton, I loved Chevy because he was smarter than everyone in the room. Back in his National Lampoon days, he was always a step ahead. On SNL, you knew he was a smarter than the joke. In movies, from Foul Play to Fletch and even to the terribly under-rated Memoirs of an Invisible Man, the thing that made us love him was his quick-wittedness, his inventiveness, his intelligence!

But the Hollywood machine wouldn’t let that last. Like Keaton, they remolded him from quick-wit to stumble-bum and stole what we loved most about him. You could see it beginning all the way back in National Lampoon’s Vacation and has reached its apex as Chevy’s options become more and more limited. Some people love the Vacation films but I watch them and think, “He’s smarter than that!” I recently saw a picture called Funny Money (2006) where he played a character with no charm and no intelligence and I wondered, “What happened to Chevy?” In Community, he plays a typical dolt – you can see the intelligence in the eyes fuming for something smart to do. And they did the same thing to Keaton.

I know he’s better than that. Chevy Chase could still blow all our socks off, if given the opportunity. So Chevy, if you’re reading, I want you to know that there are plenty of us out here who still believe. Because you’re Chevy Chase… we’re not.

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