Friday Film Review: "Confess, Fletch"
The film "Confess, Fletch" marks the return of the 1985 comedic character iconically personified by Chevy Chase.
Many "Confess, Fletch" fans are surprised to learn the early film was based upon an award-winning novel by Gregory McDonald, a former Boston Globe reporter from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. McDonald paid his own way to Harvard by working yachts and quit the Globe to write "Fletch." "Fletch" won the prestigious Edgar Award for best first mystery novel and McDonald’s follow-up effort, "Confess, Fletch" won another Edgar. McDonald ultimately wrote nine Fletch novels, and several additional serial spin-offs.
The second lackluster Chevy Chase film "Fletch Lives" was not based upon one of McDonald’s books, not the least of its shortcomings. In returning to "Confess, Fletch," director Greg Mottola sought to bring the big screen version back to the original source material. Jon Hamm replaces Chevy Chase as the smart-aleck investigator who is now a former reporter, happily globetrotting as a sometimes-freelance investigator.
The film is set in Boston where Fletch discovers a dead body in his VRBO apartment. Fletch is in Beantown to find art stolen from his girlfriend’s family in Italy. Fletch quickly realizes he is being framed for the murder but stays one step ahead of the case detectives to prove his innocence, convinced the murder is tied to the stolen art.
Jon Hamm demonstrates he has the comedic timing and irreverence to pull off the witty humor audiences loved from Chevy Chase. Hamm’s personification of the bumbling but charming sleuth is nearly pitch perfect in terms of putting his stamp on the role without merely imitating Chevy Chase’s original character. Unfortunately, Hamm’s delivery is also drier than a "Madmen" martini, lacking the razor-sharp sarcasm of say Ryan Reynolds, which blunts the humor.
As aspirational it is to bring the series back to the books, the problem with being faithful to a book from the 1970s is the humor is old hat. The first film barely avoided crossing the “offensive” line utilizing a make-fun-of-everyone approach using generalizations of supporting roles as victims of Fletch’s ad hoc, outlandish stories to amplify the humor. In "Confess, Fletch," the other characters are reduced to worn caricatures who Fletch merely navigates around, as opposed to ingratiating himself as part of the dupe.
The result is a series of trite gags regarding Italians, a pot-smoking neighbor, and a compulsive-obsessive art dealer. More clever use of the police detectives’ personal situations and a social influencer scratch the surface of the sarcasm expected in a Fletch side-plot, but those scenes are too fleeting to sustain the laughs. Rather than put his foot in his mouth to advance the plot, Fletch’s feet actually become their own plot development.
So on my Black Diamond ski trail rating system, "Confess, Fletch" earns my intermediate BLUE rating. In the end, Jon Hamm is to Fletch what Pierce Brosnan was to James Bond- nearly everything lines up right but he’s just too debonair to personify the character we expect. Even worse, the movie fails to impart a single memorable one-liner from the script.
"Confess, Fletch" is rated R for language, sexual references, drug use and PDF- public display of feet. "Confess, Fletch" is playing in theaters, video on demand and moves to Showtime on October 28th.