This one's going to be weird, because Chevy gets tons of credit for his great work and tons of shit for his lousy work. He's probably rated just about where he should be. I get all of that, but when I woke up this morning, I realized there's literally a whole generation of children who don't know how awesome, funny and popular Chevy Chase was from about 1975 until about 1990. I find that incredible. 18 year old kids could be watching Caddyshack for the first time, looking at Ty Webb and say, "Who's that guy?" or "Has he done anything else?" Admittedly, they'd have to be not all that bright, but it's definitely possible.
This post is for those not too bright 18 year olds.
Beginning with his year-long stint with the original Saturday Night Live cast and ending with his second reprisal of Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation, Chevy Chase (real name: Cornelius Crane Chase) put together one of the most impressive comedic runs in the history of cinema. He was the Barry Bonds of Hollywood comedy: he just knocked them out of the park one after another. Unfortunately, he's also just as much of an asshole as Bonds.
When SNL came on the air, Chevy emerged as the star of what became an ensemble cast after he left. And while the show probably benefited from his departure long term, his presence at the beginning of the show legitimized it. 90% of the memorable scenes from the first season came from Chevy: he was the Weekend Update anchor, had the Gerald Ford impersonation, and he fell down at the beginning of every episode. Let's also not forget the classic word association exchange with Richard Pryor. "Dead honky."
And when he started making movies? Foul Play, Modern Problems, Vacation, Fletch, European Vacation, Spies Like Us, Three Amigos, Funny Farm and Christmas Vacation. That's what the Chevy Chase box set would look like. Not only that, he was supposed to be Otter in Animal House, which means that he could have starred in three of the top ten comedies of all time.
I've intentionally left Caddyshack II and Fletch Lives off of this list, because they're sequels that should never have been made and I murdered two people after watching them. Then, after 1991's Memoirs of an Invisible Man (which was essentially a less funny version of Modern Problems), it was all downhill. He bottomed out as a weatherman in 2000's Snow Day, and everything after that is completely unrecognizable, save a cameo or guest spot here and there.
Chevy Chase's downfall, if anything, was hastened by his personality. By all accounts, he's the biggest dick this side of Harry Reams. And if you're going to take a chance on a guy that's made a couple of bad movies and is starting to lose some of his box office draw, wouldn't you rather take that chance on a guy that won't piss of these entire crew, ream the PAs for making his coffee incorrectly, and tell the craft service woman to go fuck herself. That's where Chevy found himself after the 1994 smash hit Cops and Robbersons.
You get the sense that he didn't want to do these movies; he just didn't have any more options.