Drew McWeeny of hitfix.com writes an in depth and quite honest and fair overview of the Career of Chevy Chase. In the article McWeeny reviews the “Rock star” start of Chevy’s Career and the good and bad of the star’s films.
…he was huge. He was rock star huge. He had three movies out in 1980, and you could argue that he managed to aim for three totally different audiences with the films. "Oh Heavenly Dog" was aimed squarely at kids, at the audience that had been carefully cultivated by the Benji brand. "Caddyshack" was aimed at adolescents of all ages. And "Seems Like Old Times" was a mainstream Neil Simon comedy that reunited him with Goldie Hawn, aimed squarely at the general adult audience. And all three of them worked for those audiences. You don't see comic leads doing that today, making choices that diverse, one on top of another like that. Today, comic actors tend to aim at a certain audience as much as possible. Working non-stop, though, was dangerous because not every script worked, and it seemed like Chase's agents were more concerned with exposure than with any sort of quality control.
McWeeny continues exploring the disastrous year that was 1981 with films like “Modern Problems” and “Under the Rainbow,” and then continues about 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and it’s eventual sequels…
…in 1983, he made "National Lampoon's Vacation," one of the very best things he's ever done. In that first movie, I think Clark Griswold is arguably the best character Chevy's ever been given to play. I empathize with Clark, deeply, and I love that in the first film, the Griswolds are the center of the comic storm, victims of fate and circumstance, and Chevy in particular is playing a comic Job variation that I find enormously appealing. It's a great blistering R-rated comedy, with a sharp script by John Hughes and a perfect sense of how families implode when stuck together on road trips. Set piece after set piece, character after character, "Vacation" works because it was a great piece of material on the page, and then it was executed well. As obvious as that sounds, so few of the films in Chase's filmography started from a really solid piece of writing, and that's probably the biggest mistake he or any of the "SNL" actors ever made... that willingness to start shooting something that didn't have a script that was ready yet. Compare the first "Vacation" which came out of real experience and sincere observation with "National Lampoon's European Vacation" two years later, which was a mean-spirited, ugly, garish piece of crap. It makes the fundamental mistake of recasting the Griswolds as victimizers instead of victims. Europe doesn't happen to the Griswolds; the Griswolds happen to Europe. Like the plague. Even the better-but-not-as-good-as-the-first-one "Christmas Vacation" suffers because they decided to tone it down to a PG-13 while basically just aping the best parts of the first film.
Reviewing many of Chevy’s career disappointments McWeeny praises Chase’s recent work on Community:
Right now, Chevy does genuinely funny work every week on "Community," a show that has gotten better and better over the first year it's been on the air. The writers have created a deranged, perverted, racist idiot for him to play, and it's the most likeable he's been in years. I'd like to think that the Chevy Chase who burned down the goodwill of audiences and his co-stars and his creative collaborators finally had to change, and that the Chevy who stars on "Community" is a newly reformed Chevy, a Chevy who loves what he does again and who is open to more filmmakers trying different or risky things with him. Like I said, I've been a fan for so long that I hate hearing terrible things about him. I want to believe the best of Chevy Chase. I want to see more from him that reminds me of what made me laugh in the first place. I will always have a soft spot for him.
After all, he's Chevy Chase. And I'm not.
The article is amazingly in depth and quite fair. Check out the full article here: