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Movie Review: Confess, Fletch
They made a movie just for me and then did such a bad job promoting it I almost didn't know it had been released.
That’s not the review score for the Fletch reboot starring Jon Hamm as a guy who “used to be an investigative reporter of some renown.” It’s what Fletch says every time he gets out of an Uber or Lyft. Apparently he thinks that’s the same as actually grading the ride in the app.
On Friday, I took the afternoon off to get my Covid booster and my flu shot (I’m getting old, gang), and then it was off to the cinema for a private screening of a comedy that Miramax is burying with almost no promotion.
It wasn’t actually a private screening, it was a 2 p.m. matinee where the only other people in the theater were a pair of elderly women, and I can tell you, they thought the movie was hilarious. They had a hell of a time.
And, for good reason. Confess, Fletch is good. Jon Hamm is a very good Fletch. He’s the right mix of handsome but rumpled, charming but just a little bit smarmy, smart and stupid, to pull this off.
In 1985, Fletch marked the end of Chevy Chase’s run of cool guys in good movies. His take on Fletch was maybe his best ever role. He was great in Foul Play, Seems Like Old Times, and, of course, Caddyshack and Fletch was a natural extension of that. Two years earlier, he’d taken a break from being cool to play Clark Griswold in Vacation and he was really good in that. Unfortunately, starting with the ill-fated sequel, European Vacation, Chevy leaned into playing some version of the hapless dumb guy, over and over.
The exception was the second Fletch movie, Fletch Lives. But it was a terrible movie. And, a curious decision.
There are eleven Fletch books. The original movie is based on the first book. But Fletch Lives wasn’t based on any of them. And it showed. It had a convoluted, bloated plot and seemed mostly to just be Chevy making shit up and nobody bothering to tell him how unfunny it all was.
And it marked an abrupt end to the franchise. That was disappointing because many of the other books are ripe for being adapted as movies.
Confess, Fletch is the second book, so they went in the correct release order for this one, but I was surprised that after nearly 40 years this was the one he returned in. The third book, Fletch’s Fortune, would (will?) make for a better movie. It’s about the patriarch of a huge media conglomerate murdered at a journalism convention, and there are no shortage of attendees with motive. And Fletch gets blackmailed by the CIA into eavesdropping on all of them. OK, that sounds dumb, but it works.
Anyway, on to the movie that actually got made.
One thing the book Confess, Fletch has going for it is the introduction of a new major character in the series, Inspector Francis X. Flynn, who pops up in several of the books and even has his own series of books. When I saw John Slattery in the trailer I hoped he was playing Flynn, and then we could have Fletch and Flynn movies for the next few years. But Flynn isn’t in the movie because a different movie studio owns his rights. So there went that theory.
There have been plenty of fits and starts in getting a third Fletch movie to the screen. In the 2000s it looked like Kevin Smith was going to make one with first Ben Affleck and then Jason Lee. A few years later Zach Braff was attached to a script by his Scrubs boss Bill Lawrence (thank god that never happened.)
This time it actually got made with Hamm and Superbad director Greg Mottola.
One of the big differences between the original Fletch movie and book was that at the end of the book, Fletch runs off with Alan Stanwyk’s money, and that’s how he eventually ends up in Italy to set up the plot of this movie. He meets the beautiful “Andy” Angela de Grassi and the Countess and Menti. But since the movie we’re all familiar with ends with Fletch still traveling with, and sponging off of Gail Stanwyk, in this movie, Fletch is still mostly broke.
The basic plot of Confess, Fletch is that Fletch returns from Italy to Boston where Andy has rented him a house for a few days and when he arrives he finds a dead (or extremely sleepy) woman on the floor. He calls the police and waits for them.
Instead of Flynn, Inspector Monroe, played by Roy Wood (who has a new baby at home and is also extremely sleepy) and his trainee Griz are the officers who come to investigate. They immediately suspect that Fletch is the murderer.
Fletch does little to try to convince them otherwise except to point out all of the ways he’s being helpful, and why would he do that if he was the one who did it?
Fletch is in Boston in the first place to try to locate the very valuable paintings of Andy’s father (Menti). They have been stolen and Menti has been kidnapped and the kidnappers want one of the paintings as his ransom. His wife, the Countess (played by Marcia Gay Harden, who is clearly enjoying the hell out of herself and using a ludicrous Italian accent), Andy’s stepmother, is convinced Menti has been killed and seems more concerned about the inheritance than anything else. She, too has come to Boston, either to look for the paintings or to get repeatedly shitfaced at a luxury hotel, or both.
The plot mostly makes sense the rest of the way and Fletch gets to do Fletch things. He gets to try on a few fake identities, one that he actually forgets halfway through to everyone’s enjoyment. There is a terrific scene with Annie Mumolo as he tries to interrogate her about her neighbor, the owner of the house he’s staying in (the one with the dead body) and her dog, which gets a very nice callback later in the movie.
The best things about the movie are:
Hamm’s take on Fletch just works. He’s not Chevy and doesn’t try to be. Hamm’s Fletch is still a smartass, still comes up with a great plan to figure out the mystery and still hates wearing shoes, but he also gets beat up a lot.
Everyone in the movie is having a great time. Even if the movie wasn’t wasn’t as funny as it is, you’d still enjoy the 90 minutes because they’re all having fun hanging out with each other.
Roy Wood Jr’s. character has a newborn baby at home, does a lot of complaining bout Ferberizing and falls asleep at inopportune moments.
The way Fletch sneaks out of a moving Uber in a tunnel is ingenious and would totally work.
There’s a scene where Hamm and Slattery are just sitting at a bar drinking. It’s the greatest thing ever. They’re not Roger Sterling and Don Draper (because honestly, Fletch is a lot more fun than Don ever was) but it’s so nice to see those two together again.
Kyle MacLachlan plays a snooty art dealer (is there any other kind, I know all of my personal art collectors are snooty) who is also a germaphobe who plays really loud EDM to relax.
Marcia Gay Harden pronounces Fletch, “Flesh” every time. So now, I do too.
Eugene Mirman plays a security guard who has a connection to the J. Geils Band and talks about it incessantly. At times you can just barely hear him talking to someone about it in the background and it’s never not funny.
Anyway, I only have a few complaints. And one involves Slattery.
But it’s not his fault. He plays a newspaper editor who Fletch goes to try to find some information. In the book, this happens, and the editor is a guy named Jack Saunders who Fletch worked with in Chicago long ago.
In this movie, Slattery is playing Frank Walker, Fletch’s editor from LA, the one played memorably by Richard Libertini in the original movie.
And when Hamm’s Fletch walks into the newsroom in Boston where Frank now works he sees Frank’s secretary and says, “Hi Larry.”
Why? That’s not Larry. Geena Davis is Larry. This Larry has nothing to do in this movie. We didn’t need any of this.
Just take an extra 10 seconds to explain that Fletch worked with the editor in Chicago and let’s move on.
I’m sure the reason there’s a beautiful redhead playing an unnecessary Larry in this movie has nothing to do with the fact that the actress is Anna Osceola, who just happens to be Jon Hamm’s girlfriend. Right?
Just a coincidence.
But that’s it. The only bones I had to pick with this movie all took place in about ten seconds about 40% of the way through the movie.
If you liked the original Fletch you should go see this movie. Honestly, if you like any movie you should go see this movie.
Am I biased in that I’m a Fletch Scholar™1 and that I was completely predisposed to love this movie? Sure.
Am I pissed that Miramax at some point decided they didn’t want to spend any money on promoting this movie and it’s doomed to not make any money, which also will mean they will never make the next Fletch movie which they took the time to set up in the final minutes of this movie? Yes.
You don’t have to go see this in a theater—but if you want to, I could probably arrange for the two old ladies I saw it with to watch it with you, because they loved it—because it came out on video on demand and in the theaters the same day. And, it’s going to premiere on Showtime on October 28. Yes, in FIVE weeks.
Maybe this is fine. My plan of having HBOMax get the rights so I could adapt the scripts for these movies and they could put out a new one every 12 to 18 months could be resuscitated. I’d even settle for Paramount+, though I’d probably have to co-write it with Taylor Sheridan and we’d have to set it in the 1800s and Frank and Larry would have to die of dysentery. I think I could live with that.
You know what? I’m going to start writing Fletch’s Fortune just to be safe.
In the meantime, go see Confess, Fletch. You’ll enjoy it.
Watch it, Bub is going to be a semi-recurring feature where I recommend a movie or TV show for you. I know. You’re welcome.
Not a real thing, but should be.
Oh, and in the book Fletch does sleep with the Countess.
In the books, Fletch sleeps with everybody.