Confess, Fletch Is An Amusing Rejuvenation Of A Delightful Character
For what feels like my entire life, well I’m only 28…so allow me to rephrase: for my entire life Hollywood has been trying to get a new Fletch movie off the ground. Kevin Smith, who recently released Clerks III, got close to bringing back the beloved character in the mid-2000’s, after years of being on and off the project (Jason Lee being his pick to take over the title role). However, in truth, there have been dozens of actors whose names have been tossed around over the years, from Brad Pitt to Jason Sudeikis (I would have loved to see the latter in the role). Yet a project never materialized.
I’ve always been curious to see it finally get made, as Chevy Chase is synonymous with the character for many viewers, many of whom may not even realize there were nearly a dozen books written in the “Fletch” series (9 featuring Fletch as the protagonist, 2 in the “Son of Fletch” run). The last book came out the year I was born (1994), so I find it interesting that a property that has been so widely discussed, and has been able to persist in the cultural landscape, finally got another installment released…to absolutely no level of mainstream awareness. Confess, Fletch has been unceremoniously dropped into a limited theatrical run to coincide with launching on VOD. When I first noticed last week that it was suddenly coming out, my heart sank.
“It must be hot garbage if they’re dumping it like this,” I thought to myself.
At the very least, it must mean the studio has no faith in it, right? I’m pleased to report that the movie itself is rock solid and deserving of your attention. Jon Hamm embodies the character better than I would have imagined. Sure, he’s shown off some comedic chops in the past in movies like Bridesmaids, or even in his hosting appearances on SNL. That doesn’t mean he’d thrive leading a comedy, especially one with such a specific character. His version of I.M. Fletcher brings the constant adaptability, confidence, and charisma one expects. He never forces his jokes or goes to big in search of a laugh, instead delivering his lines in the deadpan fashion that makes Fletch such a joy to watch, even if we know he’d be a pain in the ass to interact with. The few bits of physical humor he gets also work. He’s no Chevy Chase, and by extension this is a less wacky iteration of the purple hat wearing journalist. Hamm nonetheless fully embodies the character. Compared to the two Chase vehicles, this is a less overtly silly affair in general, but one that will surely delight viewers.
Confess, Fletch is based upon the second of Gregory McDonald’s books and was published in 1976. While the original Fletch (1985) was based on the first book, Fletch Lives (1989) was based on an original idea during a writers strike, and suffered greatly as a result. Everything here works much better than when we last saw the Lakers loving (now former) journalist. The plot sees Fletch discovering a body at the place he’s staying and being the prime suspect by the detectives. This puts Fletch on a mission to solve the case himself in order to prove his innocence. However, he’s also attempting to recover some stolen family paintings for his girlfriend (fiancé in the novel). There’s more to it of course, but in truth, I believe movies like this work best when you can see them and know as little as possible going in. I’m writing this in the hopes of encouraging folks to check out the movie, so I’m going to keep mum about the finer details.
The supporting cast and solid screenplay helps to keep the comedy light, the mystery engaging, and the pace breezy. Roy Wood, Jr. as Inspector Monroe provides a great foil for Hamm to bounce off of. While Monroe finds Fletch to be irritating, Wood, Jr. never overplays this for cheap laughs, its a dynamic that features plenty of dry and clever moments. Ayden Mayeri as younger Detective Griz charms as a character trying to figure out the ropes of her job while trying to keep up with Fletch’s antics. Lorenzo Izza portrays Angela, Fletch’s girlfriend, a character who throughout the story becomes more and more interesting to watch.
Other wonderful additions include two of my favorite character actors, Kyle MacLachlan as a germophobic art dealer named Horan and Marcia Gay Harden as The Countess, Fletch’s possible future mother in law (his girlfriend’s stepmom). Both the veteran performers are clearly enjoying their time, and provide eccentric behavior that never steps over the line. John Slattery shows up briefly as a Frank, a former co-worker from Fletch’s past, and the chemistry between him and Hamm is natural and enjoyable enough to suggest a long shared history. Everyone is good in this flick.
The breeziness of the runtime is also a testament to the reliable and confident directing by Greg Mottola, who previously helmed movies such as Superbad, Adventureland, and Paul, all of which are movies that I enjoy. He has a knack for brining the right tone and pace to his comedies, and is willing to get goofy or play things straight, letting the story dictate the approach. He also co-wrote the screenplay with Zev Borrow, whose writing credits are mostly filled with episodes of television shows including Chuck, Lethal Weapon, and Outer Range. Their screenplay adapts the story for the modern day well, as this story does feel like a throwback to how comedies functioned in the 80’s and 90’s. I found several of the elements reminiscent of one of my all time favorite comedies from that era, Beverly Hills Cop. Yet the proceedings never feel as if this story was out of time or navigating material that was overly familiar.
The effort put forth and good time everyone is having shines through, and it’s infectious. If you like mysteries, solid comedies, and/or (especially) the character of Fletch, I highly encourage you to check out this. This franchise has been in development purgatory for many years, and the final product deserves more attention. I always thought Chase could have played this character for many films if it wasn’t for the major stumble on the second outing. Considering it took so long to get this made, I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but I can’t help it: I hope we get to see Hamm play Fletch again. After all, I.M. Fletcher used to be a character of some repute.