He’s been away for a long time, stuck in development hell. The last time we saw Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher, one-time investigative journalist and now private investigator – of sorts – it was back in the 80s and he was played by Chevy Chase. The chances of a reboot looked slim: Kevin Smith tried and failed, more recently Jason Sudeikis looked likely to take on the role. Neither came to pass, but now he’s back on our screens as a vehicle for the smooth comedy talents of no less than Jon Hamm. Say hello to Confess, Fletch.
With the customary mix of comedy and mystery, but now with director Greg Motolla (Superbad) at the helm, Fletch finds himself staying in a Boston apartment where he finds a dead woman. He calls the cops but his attempts to explain the situation just make him the prime suspect. At the same time, his girlfriend Angela (Lorenza Izzo) has hired him to find her kidnapped father, a disappearance that seems to be connected to a stolen art collection. With two cases on his hands and the police constantly on his tail, Fletch needs to pull a few strings to keep his head above water and make sense of what’s happening around him.
In truth, as far as the mystery element is concerned, we have much the same problem. It’s hard to keep tabs on the narrative about the paintings and, even when the situation is resolved, it doesn’t hold together as it should. But it’s redeemed by a succession of entertaining characters, some of whom actually help Fletch solve his intertwining mysteries while others are just there for fun. The cops, Detective Monroe (Roy Wood Jnr) and Griz (Ayden Mayeri) are constants, often the butt of Fletch’s jokes but sometimes getting the upper hand, much to their delight. Then there’s clean-freak art dealer Horan (Kyle MacLachlan), eccentric neighbour Eve (Annie Mumolo) and Angela’s stepmother, The Countess (Marcia Gay Harden, saddled with a strange accent so that she continually calls our hero “Flesh”). Best of all is seeing Hamm re-united with his Mad Men buddy, John Slattery, as a cynical journalist. The partnership is as dynamic as ever: it’s just a shame we don’t see more of it.
The sigh of relief that goes with the film is that it’s also a good showcase for Hamm’s particular brand of comedy, a combination of charm and disaster, smoothness and confusion. It’s endearing and amusing, even if he isn’t always backed up by the slick script that he needs. Nonetheless, along with his various partners in crime, he delivers a piece of light, frothy entertainment, one that’s not especially demanding or distinctive, but it does keep a smile on our faces most of the time and that can’t be bad. Sadly, the word has crossed the Pond that its box office takings have been a disappointment and its arrival in UK cinemas during one of the most crowded weeks of the year so far doesn’t bode well. It’s no classic, but it deserves a warmer welcome.
Comedy, Action | Cert: 15 | Paramount Pictures | Cinemas from 18 November 2022 | Dir. Greg Motolla | Jon Hamm, Lorenza Izzo, Roy Wood Jnr, Ayden Myeri, John Slattery, Kyle MacLachlan, Annie Mumolo, Marcia Gay Harden