Sometimes it’s impossible to fully recapture the magic of what made a classic film great.
This is especially true in comedy, where age might confuse, muddle, or downright destroy punchlines and characterizations that were likely hilarious decades prior but are out of touch with modern taste and sensibilities.
It’s likely why there’s been such a gap in revitalizing the Fletch film series based on the novels by Gregory Mcdonald.
The Chevy Chase-led 1980s comedy saw the Saturday Night Live veteran take a quirky investigative journalist and make him even more eccentric and bizarre in a quintessentially Chase way that’s almost impossible to replicate.
Filmmaker Greg Mottola, known for movies like Adventureland and Superbad, aptly takes on this challenge with his latest feature, Confess, Fletch, perhaps the most faithful to the original novel that reboots the franchise with a more dry, subdued, and charming Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame as the titular Fletch.
Largely set in Boston, Confess, Fletch is a film of international mystery and intrigue that’s significantly more light-hearted than many murder mysteries but doesn’t have the same dynamic flair as something like director Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.
It’s a film that lives and dies on the performance of Hamm, who is probably given the best chance in his career to show off his comedic chops. While the laughs aren’t gut busting, Hamm makes the most of the exceptionally dry dialogue and situations that smart comedy fans will love, and casual moviegoers might not fully appreciate.
Hamm isn’t trying to recreate the Chase version of Fletch. There are no bombastic cheap jokes, no wild changes in tone. It’s a very demure performance by Hamm relative to the audacious Chase that works much more fluidly with the overall semi-serious noir style of the film.
Confess, Fletch isn’t a comedy that tries for broad humor, nor does it beat audiences over the head with opportunities to garner a laugh. Quantity over quality is the key to the screenplay from Mottola and co-writer Zev Borow.
The supporting cast is solid if not mostly unmemorable.
Two police detectives played by Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri are not the bumbling cops that one might expect to find in a mystery comedy like this but play off the dryness of Mottola’s script well. Each bring some unique characterization to otherwise flat characters with their cadence and line delivery that helps bring the comedy off the page.
If anyone in Confess, Fletch feels more in tune with the original 80s films in their performance, it’s Marcia Gay Harden as a European countess who at times is almost indecipherable with her heavy accent masking dialogue, mumbling through words and phrases and hiding under heavy costuming and thick makeup to cover up the ridiculousness of the character.
It’s a fun performance that feels a tad too exaggerated compared to everyone else in Confess, Fletch, often taking viewers out of the moment, but one that also adds more color and branches the divide between the Hamm-led and Chase-led versions of the series.
Confess, Fletch is sharp but unobtrusive in its cinematography and editing, probably the cleanest in the series from a technical and visual aspect with some engaging road sequences that highlight just how different this film will be from the original and evoke more of a dry European flair.
While there hasn’t been much promotion of the film for its theatrical release, Confess, Fletch will likely gain steam among some cinephiles as they are able to see it either in limited screenings or later in the privacy of their own home on VOD or Showtime.
Led by a strong performance from Hamm and smart, observant dialogue, Confess, Fletch is a fun start to what appears to be an intrigue fall of murder mystery and comedic dramas that will help give audiences a fun alternative to serialized programming on streaming services.