When I first heard that Jon Hamm would star in a new Fletch movie, my first reaction was that was a good casting choice. Over the years, Hamm has shown he has a touch for light comedy on “Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock,” “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and in a bunch of animation voice work.
But when the movie was released two weeks ago, it was accompanied by virtually no promotion by the studio distributing it, Paramount. So, it had a very weak opening weekend and has, to date, only made about a half-million at the box office.
By this week, I could only find it playing on one screen in one theater in my area. Despite the red flags — and because I usually enjoy Hamm’s projects and read some positive comments about the movie on Twitter — I convinced my wife to go see it with me the other night.
It took only about 20 minutes to realize why the movie was released under the radar and was quickly fading from view. It’s so terrible that if we’d been watching it at home, I would have turned it off at that point. But since we’d paid for the tickets, I decided to stay and see if it got any better. At the very least, I’d get to write a column about just how bad it is.
The original “Fletch” movie (1985) succeeded because of Chevy Chase at his snarky best in the title role, backed by a murderer’s row of supporting actors (Joe Don Baker, Tim Matheson, Geena Davis, Richard Libertini, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, George Wendt, M. Emmet Walsh, Kenneth Mars, and the always-reliable George Wyner). It was directed by Michael Ritchie (the original “Bad News Bears,” “The Candidate,” “The Scout”) and written by Andrew Bergman (who wrote “The Freshman” and two of the funniest movies ever made, “Blazing Saddles” and “The In-Laws”) and Phil Alden Robinson (whose credits include “Field Of Dreams,” “Sneakers,” and “All Of Me”). That’s a recipe for success.
The new one, “Confess, Fletch,” was written and directed by Greg Mottola, who has only one funny credit on his IMDb page, “Superbad.” Ironically, that title befits this movie. So, what’s wrong with it?
First of all, it breaks the cardinal sin of a comedy: there isn’t a funny thing in the convoluted script.
Though he’s undeniably charming, it turns out that Hamm doesn’t do snark well, and since that’s a key characteristic of the Fletch persona, everything he says just lies there. And when other characters do silly or unpredictable things, Hamm overreacts — as if he thinks doing so will save the lame scenes he finds himself in.
Playing a European countess of undetermined nationality, Marcia Gay Harden uses a mangled accent that makes her sound like the least-funny Gabor sister.
The physical comedy is so poorly designed and executed as to make it useless. Three examples: a young female cop who can’t open a strawberry milkshake without spilling it all over herself, a neighbor’s dog who urinates on the floor when he’s hungry, and the neighbor (Annie Mumolo from “Bridesmaids”) accidentally setting herself on fire while cooking. That last one is a direct lift from Joan Hackett in “Support Your Local Sheriff.”
John Slattery appears for about three minutes as an old newspaper friend of Fletch, but he’s given virtually nothing to do, making it obvious he was cast purely so people could see two of the stars of “Mad Men” together on screen again.
Oh, did I forget to describe the plot? In the first scene, Fletch — who’s now an ex-investigative reporter — arrives at a fancy townhouse he’s renting in Boston. After he takes a shower, he discovers a dead woman on the carpet in the living room. He calls the cops (Roy Wood, Jr. and Ayden Mayeri), who naturally suspect he’s the murderer. But after questioning him for all of three minutes, they allow him to continue living in the townhouse, despite it being a crime scene.
For added laughs, Wood has a new baby, so he gets very little sleep and regularly falls asleep in his office or during a stakeout. At one point, he even brings the kid to work at the police station. Did I say laughs? I meant cringes.
So, Fletch takes it upon himself to solve the crime. But not until we get a flashback to his torrid affair with a rich, young Italian woman (Lorenza Izzo, in the role María Conchita Alonso or Valeria Golino would have played a generation earlier). There’s also a stolen painting subplot involving an art broker played by Kyle MacLachlan, who chews up every available piece of scenery.
In the Chevy Chase “Fletch” movies, he is the hero who solves the case. Spoiler alert! Not in this one. In fact, the only similarity between Fletch/Chase and Fletch/Hamm is a Los Angeles Lakers hat.
It’s bad enough that Hamm somehow was talked into doing this dreck, but director Mottola told an Uproxx reporter that the star gave up 60% of his salary so the movie could be finished. In return, Hamm got another 11% of the gross revenue. Oops!
“Confess, Fletch” is so bad, it has displaced “Ambulance” at the top of my Worst Movies Of 2022 list. If I may paraphrase Peter Sellers in Neil Simon’s “Murder By Death,” the only things that were killed here were 98 minutes (not counting the seven previews we were forced to sit through).
I give it a 1 out of 10.