For the past thirty five plus years, the general public has identified the character of Fletch with the once funny Chevy Chase, unaware that his origins began in a series of books a decade earlier from author Gregory Mcdonald.
Although the first film was a fairly faithful adaptation of the first book in the series, Chase’s shtick and attitude was more of a distraction than a creative addition.
The film’s sequel, Fletch Lives arrived a few years later, based on an original story, just in time for Chase’s career to begin it’s long descent into indifference.
Now, with the release of director Greg Mottola’s Confess, Fletch starring Jon Hamm arriving after two decades of false starts with such talent attached at one time or another as Kevin Smith, Bill Lawrence, Ben Affleck, Jason Sudeikis, Jason Lee, and Zack Braff, Mcdonald’s sharp and funny investigative reporter has a potential opportunity to return to the public consciousness.
Based upon the second published book in the series (Mcdonald tended to revisit Fletch at different points in his life), Confess, Fletch (adapted by Mottola and writer Zev Borow) has updated the 1976 novel by dropping the character into 2022 Boston and includes such modern conveniences as Lyft rides, cellphones and password-protected computer files.
Retired from investigative reporting, Fletch is researching a book on a painter of Old West subjects and finds himself in Boston at the request of his Italian girlfriend, Angela Di Grassi,(Lorenza Izzo). Di Grassi’s father, The Count, has an impressive art collection, and has been kidnapped by an unknown party who will trade The Count for one of his Picassos. Which of course would be easy enough to facilitate if it wasn’t for the fact that the art has been stolen.
After settling into the expensive apartment rented for him by Angela, Fletch finds the corpse of a woman and immediately calls the police making himself suspect #1.
Leading the investigation is homicide Detective “Slow Mo” Monroe (Roy Wood, Jr.), who takes the place of the book’s detective Francis Xavier Flynn (who had several books of his own that are likely licensed to someone else). Monroe’s nickname comes from his reputation of taking him forever to solve his crimes. Which he does. Always. And he thinks Fletch is guilty.
Teamed with his rookie partner, Griz (Ayden Mayeri), Monroe follows Fletch’s own investigation which does little to his prove his innocence.
As Fletch, Hamm delivers one of his better performances. He’s charming, goofy, and a little clueless. But that doesn’t mean his mind isn’t working. The film’s supporting cast is impressive overall with Kyle MacLachlan as a germophobic EDM-loving art dealer, Marcia Gay Harden as Angela’s stepmother The Countess, Annie Mumolo as the scattered gossip-dishing woman next door to Fletch’s rental, and Hamm’s former Mad Man co-star John Slattery as Frank Walker, Fletch’s former editor now relocated to Boston.
Confess, Fletch is fun. It’s entertaining. It’s faithful to the source material. And unfortunately, it’s pretty forgettable.
With the decision to release the film both theatrically and On Demand, Confess, Fletch comes across as a solid TV pilot rather than as a potential film franchise. As a matter of fact, the plot itself is almost secondary to the journey. By the time the mystery is solved it’s not even particularly a revelation. The film often plays more like a screwball comedy than a mystery, but it’s charm is by far it’s greatest asset.
* * * * *
Produced by Bill Block, Connie Tavel, Jon Hamm
Screenplay by Zev Borow, Greg Mottola
Based on Confess, Fletch by Gregory Mcdonald
Directed by Greg Mottola
Starring Jon Hamm, Marcia Gay Harden, Kyle MacLachlan, Roy Wood Jr.,
John Slattery, Ayden Mayeri, Lorenza Izzo, Annie Mumolo, John Behlmann