Directed by: Greg Mottola
Premise: Based on Gregory Mcdonald’s novel. Former investigative reporter Fletch (Jon Hamm) is framed for murder. He tries to prove his innocence while investigating a stolen art collection.
What Works: Fletch is the central character from a series of mystery novels published in the 1970s and 80s. The character had previously been brought to the screen in a pair of films starring Chevy Chase and released in 1985 and ’89. Confess, Fletch reboots the film series with an adaptation of Mcdonald’s second Fletch novel and the filmmakers bring a fresh approach to the series while remaining true to the spirit of the character. The Fletch stories are fundamentally hardboiled detective fiction but they are also really funny and it is in that respect that Confess, Fletch succeeds. Jon Hamm takes over the title role and Hamm is perfectly cast. Fletch is very glib but he’s also clumsy in an endearing way and Hamm captures both of those qualities. Confess, Fletch is consistently funny with nearly every punchline finding its laugh. The film also has an assortment of unusual supporting characters including an Italian countess played by Marcia Gay Harden, a shady art dealer played by Kyle MacLachlan, and a wacky neighbor played by Annie Mumolo. These offbeat characters punch up what would otherwise be a straightforward mystery and Confess, Fletch is a good example of presenting exposition and laying clues in a way that is visually interesting. These actors are tasked with delivering a lot of information but do so while engaging in physical comedy and personal ticks that are funny and specific to their character.
What Doesn’t: The weakest element of Confess, Fletch is the mystery itself. Aside from the possibility that Fletch will go down for murder, the web of lies, suspects, and motives is not very compelling. The mystery is tangled but not in a way that would make unraveling it interesting. There is little reason to care whether or not these people get their paintings back. We’re told early on that the family needs the paintings to payoff kidnappers but there’s little sense of urgency. That lack of stakes also characterizes Fletch’s murder frameup. For most of the movie it seems unlikely that Fletch will actually go down for this crime which is doubly strange because the case against Fletch is actually pretty tight. Nevertheless, he’s treated with inexplicable leniency by the police. All of that undermines the tension.
Bottom Line: Confess, Fletch is highly entertaining due to its good humor and goofy characters. The plot is mostly secondary but that is often the case in comedy. This film gets by on the strength of its performances, in particular Jon Hamm.
Episode: #919 (September 25, 2022)