Mention the name Fletch to anyone over the age of twenty, and odds are they’ll immediately think of Chevy Chase doing some manner of buck-toothed shtick. Fewer, though, will think first of Gregory Mcdonald‘s original novel or the ten that followed. Thankfully for those of us in the latter camp, there’s a new Fletch in town (and on the screen), and he rings far closer to the source novels than to the slapstick hijinks of Chase’s 80s comedies. Confess, Fletch is an airy delight, amusing and smart in equal measure, and a long overdue opportunity for Jon Hamm to find a big screen role suitable to his particular charms and talents.
Irwin Maurice Fletcher (Hamm), Fletch to his friends, was once an investigative reporter “of some repute,” but these days he’s content loving his girlfriend (Lorenza Izzo), enjoying the sights of Europe, and tackling intriguing mysteries. That last point brings him to Boston hoping to find expensive paintings stolen from Angela’s (Izzo) family before her father was kidnapped. His search is interrupted almost immediately, though, when he arrives at his rented apartment to discover a murdered woman on the floor. He’s immediately labeled as a prime suspect by the detectives on the case (Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri), and with the clock ticking on his freedom, Fletch doubles down in an attempt to solve both the murder and the case of the probably connected stolen paintings.
Where Chase’s two outings as the reporter/investigator are built on goofy disguises and pratfalls (with varying degrees of success), Confess, Fletch finds comedy in gentler, wittier means. Co-writer/director Greg Mottola still ensures Hamm’s Fletch drops fakes names and lands in uncomfortable predicaments, but it’s a less comedically abrasive approach. It fits the character and story beautifully resulting in a fun mystery filled with characters and moments guaranteed to leave you smiling.
The script, adapted directly from Mcdonald’s second Fletch novel (and co-written by Zev Borow), does good work setting up its two mysteries and finding the inevitable connection. There’s a natural feel as both unfold and come together as any steady mystery fan know they must. Mottola and cinematographer Sam Levy match that deft, graceful story with sharp visuals and an energetic feel. Confess, Fletch never soars, exactly, with big beats or gut-busting punchlines, but there’s real comfort in its smart, casual entertainment.
A big part of that entertainment comes directly from a cast overflowing with talent. Hamm is front and center playing Fletch as an intelligent but imperfect investigator, quick-witted but constantly playing footsie with the truth. His Mad Men run cemented his dramatic chops, but he truly shines with spot on comic timing and delivery. The supporting cast is equally up to the task including a (too) brief appearance by Hamm’s old advertising buddy, John Slattery, as a local newspaper editor desperate for the old days. Izzo is also quite good and thankfully sees her character go well beyond the typically thankless girlfriend role.
Annie Mumolo lands the film’s funniest scene as a neighbor who knows too much (or too little?) and shares that in her cluttered kitchen prone to flames, dog pee, and chaos. Veterans Kyle MacLachlan and Marcia Gay Harden are also on hand, both having a very good time moving in and out of suspicion. Wood Jr. is great, Mayeri is fantastic (and steals every one of her scenes), and Bob’s Burgers‘ Eugene Mirman drops by to deliver some smiles as a security guard absolutely no one listens to.
There’s no weak link to be found in Confess, Fletch, and while it lacks big, laugh out loud moments (outside of Mumolo’s kitchen shenanigans), it’s no less funny or entertaining for it. There’s a spring in its step, one that feels in alignment with Hamm’s take on the character, and it’s ultimately satisfying without being showy about it.
The film’s wonky, low-key release — limited theatrical, VOD, Showtime, all in the space of a month — is unfortunate, but however you see it, Confess, Fletch is worth the effort. Working from Mcdonald’s novel is a smart play, and the world deserves to see the franchise continue with Hamm in the role and this supporting cast along for the ride. Bring on Fletch’s Fortune!
Related Topics: Jon Hamm