PLOT: Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher (Jon Hamm) is a former investigative journalist living as a travel writer based in Rome. Now involved with an heiress (Lorenza Izzo), when her father is kidnapped, he heads back to the States to find a priceless, stolen art collection they need for his ransom. Immediately, he’s framed for murder and must stay one step ahead of the police to clear his name and recover the stolen paintings.
REVIEW: Most people reading this review probably know Fletch as the main character played by Chevy Chase in one of his best movies, 1985’s Fletch, and its (mediocre) follow-up, Fletch Lives. The movies were based on a long-running series of novels by Gregory McDonald, and for decades, hollywood has been trying to relaunch the series, with Kevin Smith notably attached at one point.
A passion project for producer-star Jon Hamm, who also produces, Confess, Fletch is much closer to the tone of the McDonald novels than the Chase movies. Many of the things people remember most about those movies were the one-liners and disguises, but those were both pure Chevy and not really part of the books. In this movie, as in the books, Fletch is more of a charming rascal with a quick wit and a knack for getting in (and out of) trouble. It’s a lightly comic mystery that’s low-key and relatively pleasing to watch, giving Hamm a role he’s ideally suited for.
Easygoing, even when framed for murder, Fletch never takes his predicament too seriously, as he knows he’ll be able to figure things out eventually. The movie, like the book, is primarily a detective story, as Fletch interviews a rogue’s gallery, including an unscrupulous art dealer played by Kyle MacLachlan, plus an opioid-addled rich kid and his trophy wife (Lucy Punch) and a few others. Like any good mystery, the cast of characters is essential. Director Greg Mottola’s got a killer gang, with Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar’s Annie Mumolo having a killer cameo as a wacky, flaky neighbour of one of Fletch’s suspects. The Daily Show’s Roy Wood Jr. steals scenes as the detective on Fletch’s trail. A fun added bit of business is that he’s always presented as exhausted, having a newborn at home. His cop partner, Ayden Mayeri, is also fun as the one woman in the cast seemingly immune to Fletch’s charms, while Marcia Gay Harden chews the scenery as the wife of the kidnapped Italian count.
The mystery is a good one, but like many of the books, it’s all secondary, as the true delight is just watching Fletch do his thing. Hamm has the right charm to play this former journalist (“of some renown,” as he tells people), with his Mad Men co-star John Slattery showing up as his former newspaper boss. It’s a small role, but casting a guy Hamm already has a history with adds to the proceedings.
Many will inevitably compare this to the Chevy Chase movies, but it’s far lower key. This is driven home by the smooth jazz soundtrack by David Arnold. Motolla has tried to make a classy comic thriller, with him giving a shout-out to Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye in the press notes for this. He emphasizes the eccentric cast, although a few jokes fall flat, such as McLachlan’s character being into EDM. Of everyone other than Hamm, Izzo fares well as a character that could have been a standard femme fatale but has her own agency. It all adds to the vibe of the film, which is low-key and pleasant.
All that said, it also lacks the propulsive energy of the Chase films. Those movies juiced up the McDonald books to make them commercial entertainment. While Confess, Fletch opts to be more faithful, the result is a bit less entertaining than the first film (although it’s significantly better than Fletch Lives). The movie is solid entertainment but a streaming watch-through and through. Still, I had a decent time with it. In the end, Fletch is such a juicy character for Hamm that I hope he gets to play him again, perhaps in a sequel that’s a touch more dynamic.
Originally published at www.joblo.com