Confess, Fletch–A flat, bland adaptation in every way

Review by C.J. Bunce

Gregory Mcdonald won an Edgar Award for not just Fletch, but his follow-up mystery novel Confess, Fletch.  It’s well-known that Chevy Chase took the investigative journalist in his own direction in two I.M. Fletcher movies, but Mcdonald would probably not recognize last year’s adaptation and reboot of the franchise with writer-director Greg Mottola’s Confess, Fletch.  Sure, it follows the framework of the story, but Mottola’s script is flat and dreadfully boring, and his direction lacks any style or nuance.  Mottola is best known for coming-of-age movies, like Superbad and Adventureland, which may explain the banal humor he employs to bring the 1970s plot into the 2020s.  But not even the usually charismatic Jon Hamm can save this one.  Confess, Fletch is streaming now on Paramount+.

At least the title fits the plot.  That’s about all that can be said for this comedy mystery that lacks both laughs and any interesting mystery.  Not enough characters are introduced to make solving the puzzle all that difficult, although the script goes to great lengths to incorporate lengthy talking heads for info dumps to bring the audience into its three connected cases.  The first is the theft of an Italian Count’s rare collection of paintings, the second is his kidnapping and ransom of a Picasso valued at more than $20 million, and the third is the murder of a woman in a house Fletch is renting in Boston.

Without bringing the audience into the heist or witnessing the murder, they’re just stuck watching a now former investigative journalist–Fletch–try to solve the mystery for his Italian girlfriend, Angela “Andy” di Grassi.  She’s played by Chilean actress Lorenza Izzo (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), the only actor in the movie with any passion or enthusiasm for the film.  Actors playing parts outside their norm is a theme of this movie.  Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden is positively cringeworthy holding an Italian accent as Andy’s (sort of wicked) stepmother, and Robert Picardo is miscast as her father, the missing Count.

As for the mystery, don’t expect many red herrings or any clever twisty path to the end.  Do expect Fletch investigating odd people who aren’t very interesting.  The movie is more farce than mystery, and the jokes all land flat.  Mottola tries to make Hamm just a little bit like Chevy Chase’s man of many faces and funny situations.  In one especially random scene, Hamm’s Fletch interviews a woman next door who sets herself on fire and seems removed from noticing dangers to herself generally.  Hamm tries a little slapstick but it’s just not funny.

Mottola could have tapped the action movie abilities of Jon Hamm as seen in Baby Driver, or the humor he’s shared in his Saturday Night Live appearances, but his default level of ultra-dry wit doesn’t work here.  Investigators played by Roy Wood, Jr. and Ayden Mayeri don’t add any of the style or intrigue of even your basic TV mystery show–the script doesn’t give them a fair chance.  Do you blame a 30-day film shoot?  Was there not enough footage to edit something good together?  Or did the taint of being a Miramax movie play a part?

Look for a few brief scenes with Kyle MacLachlan (The Doors, Dune)–oddly filmed in shadowhe’s the only other major movie star in the show, all which may help you figure out his role in the story.  The film has some promise early on with an appearance by the MCU’s Howard Stark, John Slattery, as Fletch’s Boston newspaper editor.  More of Slattery’s character might have helped the movie a lot.

It was an uphill battle for this film as a reboot after the overwhelming success of Chase’s take on the character, which has comedy classic status.  Chase was funny, and yet the interesting mystery shone through, too.  The first movie was also supported by one of the 1980s’ best movie scores, thanks to Harold Faltermeyer.  No Fletch theme old or new ever arrives in Confess, Fletch, nor any catchy tunes or riveting supporting score.  Frequent James Bond franchise and Shaft movie composer David Arnold missed an opportunity here.  The original also benefited from a script by Phil Alden Robinson of Field of Dreams and Sneakers fame.

You’ll really miss Geena Davis as Larry in the original.  Unfortunately nothing ever comes together here.  Confess, Fletch is streaming now on Paramount+.

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