Movie ReviewsJosh Reviews Confess, Fletch

Josh Reviews Confess, Fletch

For something like three decades they’ve been trying to make a Fletch sequel.  Lo and behold, Greg Mottola (director of Superbad, Adventureland, and Paul) and Jon Hamm have cracked the code.  And yet, weirdly… I feel like very few people know this movie even exists.  It’s great!!  Stop reading this and go see it!

Jon Hamm stars as Fletch, the jovial fellow who, as he’s fond of saying in this film, used to be an investigative reporter of some renown.  He’s helping his Italian girlfriend Angela (Lorenza Izzo) try to recover some incredibly valuable paintings that were stolen from her father… in a crime that might or might not be connected to her father’s subsequent kidnapping.  Fletch has arrived in Boston to track down a possibly shady art dealer who might be involved… only Fletch quickly finds himself the prime suspect in the murder of a young woman whose body he finds on the floor of the townhouse where he’s staying.  Trailed by Inspector Detective Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and Junior Detective Griz (Ayden Mayeri), Fletch tries to unravel the increasingly complicated mystery at which he seems to be the center…

The original 1985 Fletch film, starring Chevy Chase, meant a lot to me as a kid.  It was a comedy classic that I held in the highest esteem.  It’s faded somewhat in my eyes since then, but nevertheless I’ve always been a fan of this series and (despite the disappointing 1989 sequel Fletch Lives) I’ve always felt it would be fun to see a new continuation (or reinvention) of this series (which is based on the novels by Gregory Mcdonald).  I’ve followed the reports of the various attempts to make a new Fletch film with interest.  (I’d have loved had the version Kevin Smith wanted to make in the aughts with Jason Lee come to fruition.)  I am so happy and impressed that someone actually succeeded in making a new Fletch film… and it’s good!!

Confess, Fletch doesn’t have the edge that Chevy brought to the original Fletch… but I found myself quite taken by the film’s goofy, silly tone.  I think they found a clever way to preserve what’s great about the character of Fletch and also to tweak things enough that he works for an audience here in 2022.

Let’s start with Jon Hamm, who I think is perfectly cast as Fletch.  He’s very different than Chevy’s Fletch, but I love Mr. Hamm’s performance!  He has the good looks and the suave charm to be able to talk his way into (and out of) almost any sort of situation.  And his expert comedic timing (well-demonstrated in his various appearances on 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Angie Tribeca, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and more) serves him very well here.  There aren’t a lot of “jokes” in the film… and yet it’s very funny.  Most of the comedy comes from the playful wordplay, and from Fletch’s attitude, and Mr. Hamm nails these comedic beats.  He’s also able to capture the very specific balance between Fletch’s brilliance and his stoner-like obliviousness.  And another critical balance as well: we have to like and care about Fletch, and believe that he cares about the cases he’s investigating and the people involved… yet at the same time, it’s important to the Fletch persona that he have a sort of teflon attitude, in which everything rolls off of him like water off a duck’s back.  Mr. Hamm strikes that balance perfectly.

He’s surrounded by a terrific cast.  I was particularly taken with the pairing of Roy Wood Jr. (The Daily Show) and Ayden Mayeri as the detectives investigating Fletch.  They’re both very funny, each in their own low-key way, and the film allows us to spend a lot of time with them.  Lorenza Izzo (she has a small role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) is great as Fletch’s beautiful and mysterious girlfriend Angela, and Marcia Gay Harden (Miller’s Crossing, Mystic River, The Mist) really sinks her teeth into the role of Angela’s step-mother, who everyone calls “the Countess”.  (Ms. Harden’s crazy Italian accent might be my favorite of the many silly Italian accents heard in the film.)  Annie Mumolo (co-writer of Bridesmaids) kills it in what was, for me, the film’s funniest scene — an escalatingly self-destructive conversation between her character, Eve, and Fletch, in Eve’s kitchen.  Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s Dune) is a bizarre hoot as Horan, an extremely finicky (and slightly shady) Boston art dealer.  John Slattery is terrific as Frank, a newspaper editor who’s one of Fletch’s old buddies.  (I was so excited to see Mad Men co-stars Jon Hamm and John Slattery on screen together again! I wish Mr. Slattery had more to do in the film!)  Robert Picardo (the holographic doctor on Star Trek: Voyager) is great in one scene late in the film.

The film has fun playing with the classic Fletch approach of his making up fake identities for himself as his investigation progresses.  Wisely, the film doesn’t have Mr. Hamm rely own wacky costumes (I don’t think that’d be all that funny today); it’s mostly just his quick-thinking, fast-talking skills that we see at work.  (There’s an interesting moment late in the film in which a character of color refers to Fletch’s white privilege, because he’s able to just walk into a yacht club in a way in which they could not.  It’s a valid point to make about this character, and after some consideration, I’m glad the line is in the film.  But in the moment, it pulled me out of the scene and felt somewhat out of place to me with the general silly fun of the film.  It’s the type of thing that, if they were going to include, I wish they’d explored more deeply.  Though on the other hand I can understand their not wanting to have a Very Serious scene drag down their comedy movie.)

In a similar gentle tweaking of the Fletch character and formula, the comedy here in this film relies on less slapstick (which was Chevy Chase’s specialty) and more general silliness and clever wordplay.  Again, I think that was the right choice.

Overall I enjoyed the mystery, and felt it resolved itself well.  Fletch’s various misadventures worked as stand-along sequences but they also fit together well into the overall story.  That’s a neat trick.

It’s a shame a movie like this can’t seem to get any sort of decent release these days.  Click here for a fascinating, and somewhat sad, interview with director and co-writer Greg Mottola in which he talks about the nonexistent promotion of the film.  It’s wild that the director of Superbad and the star of Mad Men (not to mention his being the co-star of Top Gun: Maverick, which has made a bazillion dollars in theaters this year) couldn’t warrant some promotional money and effort on the part of the studio.  Weird.  Still, the film exists and it’s there for you to find (either in theaters or on streaming).  Give it a chance!

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