Quick synopsis: While investigating a case of valuable stolen paintings, Fletch becomes the prime suspect in a murder.
I had no idea this was happening until I saw the poster at the cinema a few weeks ago. I saw no trailer, no press release, no hype, nothing. Plus, it’s a new entry in a franchise that has lain dormant since 1989. Apparently, the Fletch books are known in America among comedy circles, it’s why certain filmmakers always want to give it a go, and it’s why Kevin Smith tried so hard to make Fletch Won back in the day. So it’s a film the studio seems ashamed of, based on an IP that’s not that well-known in this country. All of this adds up to a feeling like looking at a particularly prophetic bowl of alphabet soup; it spells disaster.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that this film is good. By some weird coincidence, I have watched the older Fletch films semi-recently, and I wasn’t too impressed by them. I think it’s because it’s hard to see the character as a lovable rogue when he’s played by renowned asshole Chevy Chase (Chevy Chase, of course, being the only c-words you will never find in a 2020’s comedy). Regardless of his dickishness, people liked Chase in the role, with some considering it among his best work, so Jon Hamm has a lot to live up to. He needs to be similar enough to Chase that people won’t bitch and complain “he’s ruining it”, but different enough that the general audience actually, you know, likes him. I think Jon Hamm’s work in Mad Men etc has made people forget how absolutely brilliant he is as a comedic actor. His timing and delivery is spot-on throughout, few people can go as comedically subtle as he can. He’s also a lot less broad in terms of comedic style than Chase was, he’s not the type of performer to make pratfalls or go overly cliche in terms of his ad-libbing. He’s helped by the other cast members though. Roy Wood Jr. could easily ride the momentum of his performance here into something bigger, and Ayden Mayeri’s performance has to be seen to be believed and makes me think that the fact she doesn’t have a Wikipedia page (or a recurring role in a well-reviewed but under-viewed sitcom) must be an error which I’m sure will be fixed soon. It does make their job easier that the characters are all so well-written though. The supporting cast of characters are so well-defined, even those who are only in there for a few scenes. Yes, it is mainly about the titular Fletch, but if some of the other characters returned in a sequel I wouldn’t be too opposed. They’re all given little unique quirks and characterisations that make them memorable (and also, importantly, funny).
The plot? It does what it needs to. It’s not as compelling a mystery as Knives Out, but it is filled with enough twists and turns to keep you surprised and entertained. It’s not the greatest, but it doesn’t make any mistakes. There’s not really a weak part to the writing, it’s not aiming to be the smartest film in the world, it’s aiming to entertain you, and it does that well. I wish there were more films like this, mid-budget comedies which are just designed to entertain.
As I mentioned earlier, the marketing campaign for this film is practically non-existent here, and even in the US, it was dumped on VOD services quickly after a very limited cinema release. It deserves better. It deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. It won’t change your life, it won’t teach you anything, but it will entertain you and you will enjoy it. It’s the kind of film where you go in knowing what to expect, and it delivers exactly what you need. I will never not be in the mood to watch this.