Confess, Fletch

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A confession about Confess, Fletch. I was quite a chunk in before I realised that the character of Fletch, played here by Jon Hamm, was the same Fletch that Chevy Chase played in 1985’s Fletch and 1989’s Fletch Lives.

Prejudices readjusted, I continued, noting that Hamm’s Fletch is now a retired investigative journalist (Chase’s was still on the job), and that Hamm is trying to dignify the character up a bit. A touch of Cary Grant in his portrayal, or maybe even Gregory Peck – especially when Fletch is riding around Rome on an old-school scooter, Roman Holiday style.

From the opening credits – that big blue Miramax ident of yore – and the name Greg Mottola prominent as director, the whole thing feels like a bit of a throwback, to the Chase movies of the 1980s but also back to the screwy crime comedies of the 1960s, when Blake Edwards was the go-to director for capers, funny foreign accents were the norm and Elke Sommer turned up at some point, panting hard.

So no surprise that old money and noble European families feature in a plot revolving around the theft of art works, which Fletch is involved in recovering, plus a murder, which someone wants Fletch to take the rap for.

Nor that there’s a rinky-dink soundtrack, by David Arnold, a master of pastiche (he did the Bond movies when John Barry first hung up his baton) who drops a harpsichord in here and there just so we properly get the vibe.

Ayden Mayeri and Roy Wood Jr as comedy cops
Ayden Mayeri and Roy Wood Jr as comedy cops

This is your classic Sunday afternoon movie, the sort of thing you can fall asleep halfway through and it won’t ruin the enjoyment too much, because the plot isn’t as important as the characters. Hamm is good fun as Fletch and is probably closer to Chevy Chase than he imagines. The cast is really good top to toe – Roy Wood Jr and Ayden Mayeri work brilliantly together as cops in no particular hurry to arrest Fletch because they’re convinced he’ll trip himself up into jail. Lorenza Izzo is Angela, the obligatory Italian hottie, who Fletch charms into bed but who might be using him for her own ends. And Marcia Gay Harden plays Angela’s stepmother, a woman who marries for money but has an eye for anything in trousers. They’re a great little comedy troupe, though the film could have done with more of Izzo, who is a firecracker when she gets going.

Around the edges are Annie Mumolo as Fletch’s bonkers neighbour, John Slattery as his sweary old editor and Kyle MacLachlan as a slippery art dealer with a love of ferociously loud electronic dance music and a big giant finger marked “here’s your villain” hovering over his head from his first moment on screen.

There are caveats. Hamm overdoes the smirks and quirks here and there, and as so often with a Hamm performance, you’re wondering if he’s playing smug or actually is smug. Also, the tone wavers a bit as the gears change from crime to comedy and back again. But then that’s often the case even when Peter Sellers is the star.

All in all it is what it is. Light, flyaway fluff, amusingly written and frothily played, glossily filmed, smartly put together, exactly like all the films it’s aping.

Maybe it’ll be the first of a new run of Fletch movies. Confess, Fletch was the second of Gregory Mcdonald’s run of nine Fletch novels, so there’s plenty more to draw on if anyone decides this series has legs. Judging from the generally lukewarm to chilly reception, it hasn’t. Pity.

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© Steve Morrissey 2023

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