After more false starts than we can possibly recount within an agreed-upon wordcount, Fletch — the LA Times investigative journalist with a knack for disguises and the gift of the gab — has finally returned to the silver screen. His long-awaited comeback arrives thanks to Superbad director Greg Mottola; a very game Jon Hamm, stepping into one of Chevy Chase’s most iconic roles; and a rollicking script by Mottola and Zev Boro that was absolutely not written for viewers who’ll halfway watch a movie while monkeying around on their phones. Confess, Fletch is a triumph of dry wit, razor-sharp wordplay, and a steady stream of highly entertaining supporting work turned in by the likes of Kyle MacLachlan, Roy Wood Jr, Annie Mumolo and Marcia Gay Harden, who very nearly walks away with the whole movie (you’ll be pronouncing “Fletch” in her very particular accent for days after watching).
As is the case with any Fletch caper, the set-up here is not exactly simple: after learning from his new Italian girlfriend, Andy (Lorenza Izzo), of a number of wildly valuable oil paintings that have gone missing, Fletch travels from Rome to the States — only to find himself the prime suspect in a murder investigation when his rented apartment turns out to have a dead woman on the living-room floor. Things are further complicated by bits of evidence suggesting Fletch himself is responsible for the crime, which seems impossible. Who’s trying to frame our hero for murder? Where are those damn paintings? Are these two mysteries related somehow?
Determining the answer to those questions won’t be easy, and will involve speaking with a number of colourful weirdos (a Fletch speciality), telling the occasional lie, and keeping a pair of nosy cops (Wood Jr and a delightful Ayden Mayeri) off his back by any means necessary.
Mottola has crafted a very faithful adaptation of Gregory Mcdonald’s original 1976 novel here. Yes, it’s been updated and modernised in a few ways, and a character or two might have a different name this time around, but the essence of the titular character, and the rat-a-tat dialogue of Mcdonald’s novels, are fully preserved. It’s certainly a far cry from Michael Ritchie’s 1985 take on the material, which leaned heavily into the gimmick of seeing Chase don a number of absurd disguises (and taking on an increasingly absurd series of names — paging Dr Babar) to get the job done. Hamm’s Fletch is also more believable as an “investigative reporter of some repute” and Mottola’s decision to fill his cast with a number of very funny people, rather than dramatic actors, pays off in spades. Everyone here is clearly relishing the dialogue that’s been written for them.
In the end, Confess, Fletch is a mid-budget mystery comedy for adults that will delight newcomers and please Mcdonald fanatics. Really, what more could you ask for… besides a sequel?