July 04, 1988 12:00 PM

Is there more to Chevy Chase’s appeal than the knack for pratfalls he perfected on SNL? Show of hands, please. Nothing in his career of interchangeable movies (National Lampoon’s Vacation, National Lampoon’s European Vacation, etc.) indicates comic range. He enters looking serious and falls down looking goofy. Lots of energy, sure, but what else? Some critics have praised Chase’s new comedy, Funny Farm, for offering a new, non-hyper Chevy. Huh? As a New York sportswriter tired of the big city, Chase heads for New England to write the Great American Novel in domestic bliss with his wife, the lovely Madolyn (Urban Cowboy) Smith. What is Chase’s first move upon arriving at his new home? Carrying his wife over the threshold, he stumbles and drops her. The new Chevy? Then he goes on a fishing trip with some locals and falls in the lake. Of course the film is more than a series of Chase belly flops. Director George Roy Hill (what hard times could have brought the Oscar winner for The Sting to this?) contrives to have other things fall as well: A leather chair is tossed in a lake, a boulder is rolled down a hill to smash a car, a Christmas tree topples in the town square, a coffin drops and spills the bones of its occupant into a flower garden. Chevy tops all this with a dynamic choke scene after discovering that the “lamb fries” he’s been wolfing down at the town diner are sheep testicles. By that time the audience may realize that it has taken the real fall by buying a ticket to this soggy sitcom disguised as a movie. Have we fooled ourselves all these years into thinking Chase’s humor on SNL had political bite because he fell down so often as Gerald Ford? Just a thought. Which is one more than you’ll find in 99 minutes of a movie that might be better titled Saturday Night Lifeless. (PG)

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