Confess, Fletch Review: Trying to Do Too Much
Fletch, the 1985 Chevy Chase satire that has been a staple of ’80s “best-of” lists since its release, was based on one of eleven books featuring Irwin Maurice “Fletch” Fletcher. In the first novel, which the Chase film adapted, Fletch is an investigative journalist who gets up to speed in two high-stakes stories, which intersect in surprising ways. The mystery of the book took a backseat to the parody in the film, which was directed by Michael Ritchie of The Terrible News Bears and The Candidate. In Confess, Fletch, out this week from Foremost, the equilibrium shifts – – at least slightly – – more toward the mystery end of the spectrum.
Jon Hamm takes over the job of Fletch in this film, which is the first sequel since 1989’s forgettable Fletch Lives. It adapts author Gregory McDonald’s second Fletch novel, which is perfect, because it’s the second film to really be adapted from one of the books, with Lives being an original story created for the screen. It was Hamm who got Confess, Fletch made, albeit the possibility of a Fletch sequel has been floating around for years, with names like Kevin Smith (Clerks) and Bill Lawrence (Ted Lasso) attached at various points.
Hamm’s obligation to the person makes him fun to watch in the job; he deftly adapts the person from the novels, while also putting across a flavor of performance that’s evocative of what Chase brought to the ’80s films. His appeal and humor ticks every one of the boxes, and for a film worked around his performance, that’s an important component. Without Hamm delivering a funny and charming I.M. Fletcher, this film would be down and out.
The drawback to Hamm is his age. The personality of Fletch, especially on screen, is often seen as someone suffering from a touch of arrested improvement, and that’s much more “charming” if the person is in his late 20s, as he seems to be in the first several novels. Chase even pulled it off at 42, yet with Hamm being 51 years old, some of Fletch’s cutesy mannerisms don’t exactly land in Confess, Fletch. At the point when Fletch was a 40-year-old who couldn’t scrape together money for lunch, you can forgive him acting a little snarky toward a server. At the point when he’s a well off 50-year-old, suddenly his chirping “five stars!” as he exits each Uber seems significantly seriously condescending.
In fact, the abundance that Fletch seems to have – – the events of the first book are never referenced straightforwardly, yet it’s suggested that they worked out, and that means he has a small fortune that he left with at the end – – does some unusual things to the person overall. Take Columbo, for instance: he’s disheveled, slouched over, and always allows the criminals to think he’s clueless – – just a regular person doing his work. That makes him charming, and it makes obviously there’s a design behind the rich and powerful individuals he is always catching in their crimes. In Confess, Fletch, there’s a smidgen of that. Certainly some extremely awful rich individuals are disappeared. Still, many of the butts of jokes are the regular folks, and it makes the film read somewhat like Fletch is some kind of anti-Columbo, a smiling, snide face of riches and honor poking fun at motormouthed security guards and harmless potheads.
That is not by any means the only writing decision that’s somewhat baffling. While Hamm does a great work threading the needle between “book Fletch” and “film Fletch,” not everyone pulls it off. There are scenes that feel like a callback to the screwball humor that showed up in Fletch, juxtaposed against a much more dry, much less silly interpretation of the person and his reality. In our interview with director Greg Mottola, he said that a ton of the humor comes from watching Fletch respond to individuals around him – – yet he isn’t exactly a straight man, considering that his personality and snark are undeniable.
Frank Jaffe, Fletch’s editor who makes a brief appearance in the film, is played by Maniacs’ John Slattery, and his back-and-forth with Hamm is brilliant. He’s one of a few characters who might have used more screen time, to some degree because when Fletch is poking at him, you don’t get the possibility that he’s punching down. In the books, the targets of Fletch’s disdain all deserve it. Here, it feels like he’s a firehose of snark, drenching everyone in sight, and as a result, it’s fun while he’s sharing the screen with characters who can take what he’s dishing out.
One thing that was done especially well is updating the film for the present day. There aren’t many scenes in Confess, Fletch that could never have occurred when the book was composed – – and when things are updated, it’s done in a matter-of-fact way, and it enhances the story. Getting around mechanized records for a van he needs repainted, Fletch recruits a couple of youthful graffiti artists to do it for him, rather than wearing down the person at the auto body shop. At the point when he gets a file from Frank, it’s password-protected (“Go F yourself” being the password), providing a little laugh that didn’t exist when it was just a folder being handed over discreetly.
The mystery itself works well. It tracks the one in the book closely, and as a fan of the series, Confess, Fletch has one of the best, most fun mysteries of the entire parcel. There are some simplifications made in request to fit the run time, however nothing almost as significant as what was done to make the 1985 film work. Fans of the books will probably be among the happiest about Confess, Fletch, however those same individuals will be the most baffled and disappointed at the decision to excise Inspector Francis Xavier Flynn and his accomplice Grover.
Flynn got his own book series spinning out of the events of Confess, Fletch, so it seems likely these characters couldn’t be essential for the film because of rights issues. That’s understandable, and their big-screen replacements (Roy Wood, Jr. as Inspector Monroe and Ayden Mayeri as Griz) are truly agreeable – – heck, if you want to follow a previous string, there’s a component of Griz feeling a piece like Columbo at times. Still, one has to wonder why they chose to adjust Confess, Fletch instead of one of the other books, when they knew right off the bat in the process that they wouldn’t have the option to use Flynn.
It isn’t really that Flynn himself is the thing that makes the mystery work. Instead, the evacuation of Flynn and Grover necessitates the creation of Monroe and Griz, and that means creating yet more work for the filmmakers, who are now trying to pare down an exceptionally complicated book to fit an extremely short run time.
And yes, the run time becomes a responsibility. This story has a ton of characters, including some really great performances (In addition to Hamm and Slattery, Mayeri is on point in each scene she’s in; give that character a Paramount+ show, stat!), however many of them don’t get the space they need to breathe. The mystery also feels much easier to solve in the film than it did in the book, and that’s possible because the compressed nature of the storytelling caused subtle clues to seem more obvious and important. The situation feels extremely swarmed – – and sometimes, that’s used to great effect.
In Fletch, Chase’s interpretation of the person had a much more simplified version of the mystery. Two equal mysteries from the book are closely related in the film, and as a result, there’s not much of a sense of chaos at the finish of the film. At the point when the two different plotlines converge, it feels fairly…normal. That’s not the way in which McDonald writes his climaxes at all.
In the book Fletch, there are five or six dangling plot threads, and Fletch essentially schedules every one of them to slam into one another, so that in the final pages of the mystery, the stakes are not just high…the entire story feels somewhat turbulent. You wonder, “How on earth could he at any point envelop this with the remaining pages?” Confess, Fletch faithfully recreates that McDonald-ian sense of absolute chaos in its third demonstration, bringing together ten or so characters from three or four different subplots for a scene that’s just confusion. Ironically, it feels more like what you think of as the peak to an ’80s satire like Creature House than the genuine ’80s film, and the results are electric. That scene is funnier than almost anything else in the film, without undercutting the genuine stakes that several of the subplots have. It truly validates the possibility that McDonald’s frantic pacing and rat-a-tat exchange could be faithfully adapted into a truly great film, and makes the watcher wish a greater amount of the film had felt like that.
Confess, Fletch is a film that has the pieces it needs to be all great, however its short run time and a few baffling creative choices cause it to feel like it is juggling too many plot threads, too many characters, and too much ambition.