Fletch (1985) and Fletch Lives (1989), starring Chevy Chase, were staples of video stores and daytime cable programming when I was growing up. The Chase led films adapted Gregory Mcdonald’s novels with the gross, irreverent, low-brow humor of Caddyshack (1980) that has forever been associated with Chase. In adapting Mcdonald’s work for the twenty-first century screenwriters Zev Borow and Greg Mottola (who also directs) sanitize the humor and characters with political correctness. This isn’t bad, it’s just that the humor in Confess, Fletch (2022) is more “cutesy”; the stuff of John Cusack comedies from the early 2000s.
Fletch without the edge means that Confess, Fletch has to get by on actor Jon Hamm’s charms alone. And while Hamm’s charms and on-screen charisma are considerable they aren’t enough to elevate Confess, Fletch from the realm of mediocrity. The “edge” that’s missing, that Hamm attempts to conjure through his performance alone, is epitomized in the inoffensive irreverence of The Nice Guys (2016), Ghostbusters: Answer The Call (2016), and Birds Of Prey (2020). Despite popular belief it is possible to be provocative without ruffling anyone’s feathers.
Hamm plays the titular hero who is enlisted to aid in the recovery of some stolen paintings. While on the case Fletch makes contact with an art dealer into electronic music (Kyle MacLachlan); irks a newspaper editor (fellow Mad Men star John Slattery); evades a countess’ seductions (Marcia Gay Harden); becomes suspect number one in a murder investigation led by two misfit cops (Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri); and gets dumped his girlfriend/suspect (Lorenza Izzo). The plot of Confess, Fletch has more twists than a barrel of pretzels (including a last minute reveal and cameo by Robert Picardo) and an ensemble epic enough to make Robert Altman envious.
Confess, Fletch is a pleasure to watch but it is neither engrossing nor affecting. The best comparison I can think of is to the television show Monk (2002-2008). There is nothing to Confess, Fletch other than the likability of its cast. This isn’t surprising since director Greg Mottola is so good at working with actors. The issue is that Mottola never replicated the emotional authenticity of his debut Daytrippers (1996) and seems to have just embraced the most commercial kind of filmmaking. Mottola directs mainly for sitcom television and it has come to show in his film work.