Chase later said the film "stunk - for a myriad of reasons".
Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher (Chevy Chase), a reporter in Los Angeles for the L.A. Times, is contacted by the executor of his late aunt's will, attorney Amanda Ray Ross (Patricia Kalember). Ross informs Fletch he has inherited his aunt's mansion and 80 acre plantation property, Belle Isle, in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Upon arriving in Louisiana, Fletch is disappointed to find the mansion terribly dilapidated, but he agrees to keep on its caretaker, Calculus Entropy (Cleavon Little). Fletch has dinner with Ross at her home that evening when she tells him of a $225,000 bid for Belle Isle made by an anonymous buyer.
After bedding Ross, Fletch awakens the next morning to find her dead. Fletch is charged with Ross' murder and taken into custody, nearly being raped by his zoophilic, necrophiliac cellmate Ben Dover (Randall "Tex" Cobb), spared only because Dover is released on bail. Dover's lawyer Hamilton "Ham" Johnson (Hal Holbrook) manages for Fletch to be released. When Fletch declines a second, even larger offer for Belle Isle from the buyer, this time presented by realtor Becky Culpepper (Julianne Phillips), he starts getting harassed each night at the mansion. First, a hired group of bumbling Ku Klux Klansmen harass him. Then, an arsonist burns down the mansion. Finally Ben Dover tries to kill Fletch during a raccoon hunt with some locals. Fletch discovers the land on Belle Isle is polluted by toxic waste. He determines to uncover the identity of the anonymous buyer, whom he suspects is attempting to intimidate him into selling.
He learns the local megachurch, Farnsworth Ministries, is interested in obtaining the Belle Isle property. Fletch investigates the church's pastor, tele-evangelist Jimmy Lee Farnsworth (R. Lee Ermey), and discovers Farnsworth's daughter is Becky, the realtor who represents the buyer. The toxic chemicals in the soil of Belle Isle is traced back to Bly Bio, a toxic chemical waste facility in Mississippi. Fletch obtains an invoice from the plant's manager which proves that Ham Johnson ordered the waste dumped on the Belle Isle land.
Fletch confronts Ham with the evidence at a costume party fundraiser hosted by Ham at his home. Ham admits he polluted Belle Isle out of revenge for the way he feels Farnsworth took advantage of Ham's mother shortly before she died. Farnsworth persuaded her in her confused mental state to give away her valuable land, on which the church then built a profitable amusement park. Ham intended to devalue the land owned by Farnsworth Ministries. He killed Ross when she realized his plan. Becky is captured by Dover and brought to Ham's mansion, and Ham orders Dover to kill her and Fletch. Fletch creates a distraction by spilling out the urn containing Ham's mother's ashes, and he and Becky escape. They flee to the Farnsworth Ministries church nearby, interrupting a televised service in progress. Ham follows them, intending to kill Fletch, but Ham is shot by Calculus. Afterwards, Calculus reveals himself to be FBI Special Agent Goldstein working undercover as part of an investigation of Farnsworth Ministries financial dealings.
Returning to Los Angeles with Becky, Fletch is thrown a welcome home party by his co-workers and receives a $100,000 insurance claim check for the mansion fire. His ex-wife's alimony lawyer Melvyn Gillette (George Wyner), whom Fletch despises, appears, offering to forego all future alimony payments in exchange for the Belle Isle property, which he believes to be valuable. Fletch, barely able to contain his joy, happily signs over the worthless, polluted land.Chevy Chase as Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher
Hal Holbrook as Hamilton "Ham" Johnson
Julianne Phillips as Becky Culpepper
R. Lee Ermey as Jimmy Lee Farnsworth
Richard Libertini as Frank Walker
Randall "Tex" Cobb as Ben Dover
Don Brockett as Sheriff
Cleavon Little as Calculus Entropy
George Wyner as Marvin Gillet
Patricia Kalember as Amanda Ray Ross
Geoffrey Lewis as Ku Klux Klan Leader
Richard Belzer as Phil
Phil Hartman as Bly Bio manager
Titos Vandis as Uncle Kakakis
The movie gained a mixed to negative reception. Fletch Lives currently holds a 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews with the consensus: "Chevy Chase remains ideally suited for the role, but Fletch Lives lacks its predecessor's wit, relying instead on silly disguises, cheap stereotypes, and largely unfunny gags."
The movie debuted at No. 1. It went on to gross $39.4 million worldwide.