Lost in America: written by Albert Brooks and Monica McGowan Johnson; directed by Albert Brooks; starring Albert Brooks (David Howard) and Julia Hagerty (Linda Howard) (1985): Brooks takes his often hilariously neurotic persona on the road as David Howard, who transmutes a massive disappointment at work into an attempt to replicate Easy Rider, but in a Winnebago and without the whole death problem at the end.

As ad executive Howard, Brooks is his usual self-doubting, blabbermouth self, while Julie Hagerty — best known for the Airplane movies — is charming and off-beat as his wife. The movie dissects the ideological fallacies of a certain type of modern personality whose fantasies are dangerous because they’re so ill-thought-out and not because they’re daring.

Terrific set-pieces abound in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and on the road. Brooks keeps things moving throughout. There’s really no fat on this movie, which clocks in at a satisfying 90 minutes or so. Highly recommended.

Fletch: adapted from the Gregory McDonald novel by Andrew Bergman; directed by Michael Ritchie; starring Chevy Chase (Fletch), Joe Don Baker (Chief Karlin), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Gail Stanwyk), Tim Matheson (Alan Stanwyk), George Wendt (Fat Sam), Geena Davis (Larry) and Richard Libertini (Frank) (1985): This enjoyable, occasionally and weirdly aimless mystery-comedy sends investigative reporter Chevy Chase off on the trail of drug-dealers, corrupt police, and a mysterious businessman.

You know it’s the mid-1980’s because Harold Faltermeyer supplies the music, just as he did on megahit Beverly Hills Cop the year before. Indeed, Faltermeyer replaced the original composer for this movie after the posters had been printed, suggesting that he was parachuted in because studio executives thought he was the reason Beverly Hills Cop grossed a gajillion dollars.

Chase and a very strong cast are very funny throughout, though the fact that Fletch keeps disguising himself for his investigations seems a bit odd given that Chase wasn’t one of Saturday Night Live‘s gifted mimics. It’s always nice to see Joe Don Baker, here playing a sinister police chief, with George Wendt, Geena Davis, Richard Libertini, and M. Emmet Walsh also doing solid work in supporting roles.

A relatively complicated plot sputters at times, and Chase really doesn’t evoke sympathy when the movie turns to the character’s pain over his ex-wife’s infidelity. He’s just not that type of comic actor. Recommended.

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