‘Confess, Fletch’ Can’t Conjure Chevy Chase’s Iconic Laughs

Greg Mottola’s “Confess, Fletch” stars Jon Hamm as Irwin M. Fletcher, an investigative reporter who goes by “Fletch” and generally gets into trouble every time he walks out of his apartment.

We reacquaint ourselves with Fletch, now played by Jon Hamm, as he discovers a corpse in his living room. Police assume the body is the work of Fletch, who is barefoot and entirely nonchalant about being the prime suspect.

By digging deeper, Fletch discovers a conspiracy amongst the wealthy elite and, mostly, unleashes an unceasing string of wisecracks, while almost always donning an L.A. Lakers cap.

Here is one of those long-gestating projects that never seemed like it would get made.

Since Chevy Chase hasn’t played the role since 1989, the announcement of a new Fletch film came and went for decades. Notable candidates for the role included Jason Lee and Jason Sudeikis, though they should have gone straight to Ryan Reynolds.

He’s been essentially playing Fletch his entire film career.

The film feels overly belated from the start, as it opens with a Miramax logo and a “Miramax Presents” introductory credit – haven’t the new owners considered rebranding or do they really want the names of Harvey Weinstein’s parents, let alone the Weinstein connection, to flourish?

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Based on Gregory McDonald’s 1976 novel, “Confess, Fletch” has been adequately updated for the 21st century (with references to “Molly” and social media) and pivots in a direction removed from the popular Chase iteration of the character. For example, Fletch still uses disguises and phony identities during his investigations, though that element (which was broadly comic in Chase’s hands) is handled with restraint here.

The tone overall reflects an Elmore Leonard adaptation, though nothing here matches the snap of either “Get Shorty” (1995) or “Out of Sight” (1998). At best, this is pleasant, and a couple of scenes are pretty amusing, but it never takes hold like it should.

Hamm is a good choice for Fletch and such a solid actor, it’s a David Duchovny-level puzzle how this accomplished TV actor has never been able to properly jump start a film career.

Kyle MacLachlan is excellent as a wealthy suspect and Marcia Gay Harden, always a welcome presence, gets tripped up by a one-note, broadly accented character. Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri score the most laughs in supporting roles as the skeptical law enforcers who closely follow and harass Fletch every step of his investigation.

Unfortunately, as consistently good as Hamm is, “Confess, Fletch” is too middle-of-the-road to linger in the mind after it ends. Mottola’s witty film has strong performances and is a polished, professional effort, but it’s too lightweight and laid back.

The first two “Fletch” films, directed by the late Michael Ritchie, had bite to match the unceasing sarcasm of its protagonist. Here, the whole movie is as chill as Fletch’s attitude and it’s a big problem.

This didn’t need to be an action/comedy or more blue in its humor to work better. What it needed was to make us care more about the outcome of the mystery and invest a real feel of danger to the proceedings (the first, still best “Fletch” succeeded at this).

While a much better film than Katherine Heigl’s unfortunate “One for the Money” (2012), this has a similar lack of energy.

There’s a scene here where Fletch questions a potential suspect in her apartment, which she almost burns to the ground, due to her casual attitude towards fire; it’s one of the only scenes here that really goes for big laughs and gets them.

Otherwise, the central mystery is too predictable, and the jokes are clever but not laugh-out-loud caliber.

Let’s give Chase the credit he deserves. “Fletch” wasn’t just funny, it was tight, sharp, exciting and Chase was always better suited to that role than his career-long stint as Clark W. Griswold.

Chase made other successful vehicles but “Fletch” was his “Beverly Hills Cop.”

In the original and even the hit-and-miss, overly broad sequel, “Fletch Lives” (1989), Chase was electric. I’m not stuck in the 1980s and don’t think “Confess, Fletch” needed a Chase cameo, but I really missed Chase and even the very ’80s but still great Harold Faltermeyer theme music.

There’s just not enough here to make enough of an impression, as Hamm has been better elsewhere. I’d be surprised if this somehow catches on and Hamm returns to the role. In the event that there’s another of these in Hamm’s future, I hope that the next time we encounter Fletch, there’s more at stake than the future of a 33-year-old movie franchise that, as of this moment, peaked in the ’80s.

Two Stars



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