The last time I. M. Fletcher appeared in the movies, it was the less than stellar Fletch Lives, an original story idea for a sequel to the movie Fletch, based on the novel by the same name by Gregory Mcdonald. The popular mystery series had eight other novels to adapt following the 1985 movie, which was a modest hit and was developing its own fan base, but a different route was taken. And while the 1989 movie made almost $40 million off a $8 million budget, that was all she wrote for him for a while.
Kevin Smith, of Clerks fame, was a popular fan of the movie series and even admitted his screenplay for the failed Superman Lives movie borrowed its title from Fletch Lives. Of course, Smith tried to get a new Fletch movie out, even at one point choicing Jason Lee for the prequel Fletch Won. However, that didn’t happen. And Smith said him and Chase didn’t get along during early talks. A third Fletch movie stalled in development hell with other actors such as Zach Braff and Jason Sudeikis being considered. I think I even heard they were thinking of Joshua Jackson.
However, Jon Hamm has been chosen and it is a good choice. Hamm has a difficult job of doing his own thing, while honoring what Mcdonald, who passed in 2008, had done with the character, while trying not to immitate Chase but still show he knew what he was doing. It’s a hard task for the actor but he pulls it off well. They even include Fletch’s tendecies to not wear shoes and take them off whenever he feels like letting his feet breathe. This was in the books but not in the movies. Hamm dons the Lakers cap and has some of the quick quips that make him a thorn in many people’s side.
The movie is based on the second novel in the series. And just to clarrify some things the 1985 movie didn’t include, Fletch has managed to finagle the money that Alan Stanwyk was going to take with him and has been living abroad for a few years. He’s managed to go from investigative reporting to travel and liesure reporting, basically writing for travel magazines you might read on a plane, under a pen name of course. Considering his birth name is Irwin Maurice Fletcher, he’s been using Ralph Locke, which Inspector Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) says sounds made up, but Fletch reminds him it’s a pen name.
Fletch has gotten himself into some trouble again. In Italy, he met the rich Angela de Grassi (Lorenza Izzo), who he calls Andy, as they’ve started a relationship. She sends him to Boston to recover some of her father’s famous art paintings believed to be stolen and in possession by Ronald Horan (Kyle MacLachlan in a great role) as an extreme germophone who listens to death metal music to relax. Andy’s father (a pleasant cameo by Robert Picardo) has reportedly been kidnapped by the mob and being ransomed.
But Fletch’s problems begin the minute he checks into a rented townhouse in Boston only to discover a dead woman, Laurel Goodwin. When Monroe and his junior detective Griz (Ayden Mayeri) show up to question him, they suspect him and tail him. However, Fletch must get to the bottom of what’s going on, which includes talking with Horan and other people connected to the case while trying to keep out of jail.
He suspect the house owner, Owen (John Behlmann) of being the killer. However, Fletch’s Chandler-esque way of interviewing people and meeting colorful characters puts him in touch with Eve (Annie Mumulo), an eccentric neighbor who is the opposite of Horan and provides some of the movie’s biggerst laughs. Andy’s own stepmother, The Countess (Marcia Gay Harden in a sultry European send-up) comes to Boston and invites herself into the rented townhouse as she has an attraction to Fletch as well.
Fletch also tracks down his old editor, Franke Jaffe (John Slattery replacing Richard Libertini) who now works in Boston at a publication. Frank is part of the reason for the R rating for the movie as he drops the F-bomb in almost every sentence. It’s a nice Madmen reunion and also a little wink to Slattery’s role as Ben Bradlee Jr. in the movie Spotlight, which is also set in Boston. And Frank reminds Fletch not to walk around Boston much with the Lakers ball cap.
But none of this works if Hamm doesn’t deliver. And he does a good job. Greg Mottola, who has directed movies like Superbad, Adventureland and Keeping up with the Joneses, directs the movie. And he does a good job of tying together all the pieces while letting Hamm do his magic. It’s a shame Miramax and their parent company Paramount didn’t give this much of a bigger release when it was in theaters in mid-September. It can currently be seen streaming on Paramount-Plus. So far, it’s gotten some great reviews even if the box office receipts are dismal.
Will we see another Fletch movie soon? I hope so. The ending hints that way. Mottola has said he has been tasked with adapting the novel Fletch’s Fortune but is unsure whether it’ll be made. I don’t think we can wait another 30 years or so.
What do you think? Please comment.