Fletch

"Very Good"

Fletch Review


If you were in junior high or high school when Fletch came out, the movie holds enormous nostalgia value, particularly if you also happened to live in L.A. at the time (like me). Fletch revealed the L.A. that its denizens knew well -- the grungy beaches, the sun-cracked streets, the drab apartment buildings. Fletch's Lakers fetish, and the offices of the Los Angeles Times-like newspaper where he worked completed the L.A. milieu that audiences here immediately hooked into. What's more, we got Chevy Chase at his wise-ass best, in a crime caper tailored to the Beverly Hills Cop crowd (of which I was an admiring member), and thrumming with Harold Faltermeyer on the soundtrack. Sure, Faltermeyer's synthesizers sound supremely cheesy today, but this was the '80s, man. And nothing speaks the '80s like Faltermeyer's Casio keyboards, tuneful yet pulsing with that moneyed urban vibe; I think of it as the safe, consumer-friendly edge of high '80s decadence.

On first viewing (the movie's opening weekend), I admit I didn't get all of Fletch's jokes, but found myself pleasantly amused. Twenty-two years later, I get all the jokes, but I remain only pleasantly amused, nothing more, nothing less. This is a comfort movie -- smart and sassy enough to make good company, but a notch short of brilliant.

Chase plays Irwin Fletcher, a reporter investigating the drug scene on L.A.'s beaches. When a mysterious aviation tycoon (Tim Matheson), who claims to be terminally ill, offers Fletch loads of money if he'll agree to kill him, the reporter senses something's way off. Digging deeper, Fletch discovers a trove of ugly secrets, not least of which is the tycoon's involvement in drug trafficking, and that the police are in on the whole thing. Not surprisingly, he's on both the tycoon's and the LAPD's shit lists. It's not all bad news, though: The tycoon's suitably outraged wife (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) is sizzling-hot (minus the '80s bouffant), and she's taken a shine to him.

Without Chase, and if Fletch were played straight, it would be a passable detective movie. Andrew Bergman's adaptation of Gregory MacDonald's novel makes for a fine but unmemorable screenplay. Likewise, Michael Ritchie's direction seems uninspired yet alert enough to get the story across. Insert Chase into this scenario, however, and Ritchie's direction is now purposeful, and Bergman's script breathes with fresh life.

The script and direction's conventionality of style are, in fact, deliberate accommodations to Chase, whose performance is among his most natural and relaxed. Here, he gets plenty of room to goof off and, in the process, lampoon the dead-seriousness of the crime genre. When the chemistry between Chase and the material is heady enough, we get comedy sparks -- prime examples being Chase's banter with the painfully stern tycoon; with his perpetually put-upon editor (Richard Libertini); and, most especially, with M. Emmet Walsh, who plays a befuddled proctologist (aka Dr. Jellyfingers). Much has been made of Fletch's silly disguises and personas; they're amusing (especially "Gordon Liddy," the slick-haired, buck-toothed airplane mechanic), but Chase is as funny out of them as in them. Frankly, even in disguise, it's still Chase doing his shtick.

Fletch was among the last of its kind. Made for and released during the heyday of the smart-ass crime comedy (a sub-genre over which Eddie Murphy ruled), and among the slew of still-solid vehicles made for late-'70s SNL alums like Bill Murray, Murphy, and Chase. The charms of its laid-back pacing, character-driven scriptwriting, and deadpan humor (courtesy of the Master of Deadpan himself) we can hope, won't be lost on the Will Ferrell crowd, which likes its punchlines fast, upfront, and obvious. I am not optimistic.



Fletch

Facts and Figures

Run time: 98 mins

In Theaters: Friday 31st May 1985

Distributed by: MCA Universal Home Video

Production compaines: Universal Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Peter Douglas,

Starring: as Irwin 'Fletch' Fletcher, as Chief Jerry Karlin, as Gail Stanwyk, as Frank Walker, as Alan Stanwyk, as Dr. Joseph Dolan, as Larry, as Fat Sam, as Stanton Boyd, as Speaker, as Ted Underhill, as Marvin Gillet, Tony Longo as Detective #1, Larry "Flash" Jenkins as Gummy, Ralph Seymour as Creasy

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