PG, but 1985 PG. It's got language and sexuality. There are some wildly inappropriate jokes, often with dated humor. It probably feels more offensive than it is, but I still wouldn't let my kids watch it. One of the central storylines is about drugs and police corruption. It's not exactly family friendly.
DIRECTOR: Michael Ritchie
For years --heck, most of my lifetime --I thought I hated Fletch. I didn't get what people saw in the movie. I'm not 100% turned around on it, despite the fact that it might be blasphemy for some people. When I was growing up, Fletch was a staple of early Comedy Central. I remember constantly having Comedy Central on and the limited programming on the network often was given relief by yet another showing of Fletch. I would give the movie a fair shake, considering that I was a pre-teen. After all, Chevy Chase was the guy from National Lampoon's Vacation. Surely, this movie has to be equally hilarious.
It would only be years later that I would realize that you could have a serious mystery in all elements except for the protagonist. Honestly, this specific subgenre would prove to be one of my favorites. I love movies like Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang; The Nice Guys; and Beverly Hills Cop. It's funny, because I liked Beverly Hills Cop movies back in the day. But there was something outright funny about Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop. Watching the beginning of Fletch, I get that the humor is there. But it isn't hilarious. Chevy Chase, for all of his falling over in chairs and over-the-top zaniness in some projects, has a different personality that he shows off in Fletch. Irwin Fletcher is Chevy Chase a'la Weekend Update, not Clark Griswold. The whole thing screams, "I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not." That Chevy Chase is a very specific brand of comedy that some people absolutely love. It's weird, because I am now completely on the up-and-up on Chevy Chase. At least, I'm as savvy as can be assuming every interview about him is accurate.
For those unaware, Chevy Chase is one of the most disliked celebrities in Hollywood. That "I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not" thing really went to Chase's head. Now, I think Chase is aware of his reputation. After all, he's gotten into physical altercations over his behavior. This kind of puts his audience in a weird sense of making a choice. Chase honestly doesn't perform very often. Post-Community, which left Chase's behavior publicly known, people have had to decide how to view Chase. Pierce Hawthorne on Community worked because a lot of that was Chevy Chase. It might be easier to swallow a Clark Griswold because it is a fantasy character. Chase is acting. And, sure, Griswold is problematic in his own right. But Griswold is pretty lovable. But Fletch? Fletch is a narcissist who you want to see win, which is kind of reflective of Chase on the whole. It's a very specific brand of humor that, if you allow yourself to understand, kind of works. As a member of an audience who avoided this movie for decades after Comedy-Central-saturation, knowing that jerk-Chevy is funny works.
Now, Fletch works for some very specific reasons. I don't think I'll ever understand the cult following behind Fletch. I think it comes from Chevy Chase fandom, not necessarily an appreciation of genius. But Fletch, similar to Shaft, is a response to a brand of detective story. I'm going to cite Klute as our foundational work, but there was the notion that you can market a detective story around a personality. The crime didn't matter. It was just a monosyllabic name that drew the attention of an audience. Who cares what the crime is? I want to see outside-the-system male take care of the problem. Because a lot of these stories are about the protagonist and the joy of watching him beat the system, the stories are lame. But I'm going to give a point to the people behind Fletch. Believe-it-or-not, these plots are kind of...good? Okay I'm having a beef with Fletch Lives, but I haven't gotten to writing about that one yet, so give me a minute.
You actually can watch Fletch for not-Chevy-Chase. His jokes enhance the movie for the most part, but the story kind of holds its own. Instead of being a whodunnit, it's more of a "how is this going to play out" mystery? The film sets a high premise: Fletch --unbeknownst to his benefactor as an investigative journalist --has been hired to help a man end his life at a very specific time. It's more of a puzzle box than a traditional mystery and that's what makes it a bit more fun than usual. We know --for the most part --who the bad guys are. But we're left without a motive or much background behind these choices. The bulk of the movie is trying to make sense of an absurd situation and it, mostly, works. The story is all there. It's pretty fleshed out. It's a little imperfect. Some of that beach stuff is almost left a bit ambiguous for lack of answers. But the big deal is that there's an escape room element to the film and that's pretty fun.
So where do I really have the problem? Don't get me wrong, there are times I really laughed at many of Fletch's bits. But there's also a complete need to suspend disbelief and most of that comes out of tonal choices. The movie really wants to treat the plot as serious, but let Fletch be anything he wants to be in the moment. The thing about Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, any kind of hijinks that he was up to fit in the established world. He was a large character in a small world. But Fletch? Fletch is whatever Chevy Chase finds funny at the time, regardless if it serves the story or no. I know that Comedy Central always advertised Fletch as the equivalent of a Master of Disguise story. It was all about his multiple characters that he uses to gain information on people. Those are fun. But these characters go from grounded to fantastical. There's G. Gordon Liddy? He's got buck teeth and a wig? Why? Why go to those extremes? Fletch Lives will sin more fantastically in this regard. But it seems like maybe reusing personas would make more sense.
Then there's the notion that Fletch can score any woman he wants with little effort? My goodness, the women characters in these movies are underwritten. There's a bimbo stereotype and then there's what is going on here. Women are honestly treated as completely malleable regardless of situation. Gail Stanwyk accidentally finds out through Fletch's intervention that she's being bamboozled out of millions of dollars by her husband and that he's going to fake his own death after finding out that he's involved with the drug cartels. And yet, every scene she's happy as a clam? From being hit on by someone who clearly isn't Alan's buddy to the final result, she's just peachy when this bad news comes pouring in. How should someone react when their entire lives are being turned upside down? It's upsetting. I get that Bond girls don't have a lot of agency, but this is a new level. And part of me --and it feels like I'm picking on him at this point --feels like this is to stroke Chevy Chase's ego. The movie assumes that people who are just meeting Chevy Chase would be sexually interested in him. It's bizarre.
So I liked it better than I thought that I would. But a good movie it doesn't necessarily make. It's fun and I'm glad that I watched it. But can we share a secret, reader? I'm only watching these movies because I'm excited for Jon Hamm in Confess, Fletch. That movie looks great. Jon Hamm is way more palatable than Chevy Chase. It just needs a little more grounding a little less absurdity for me to get on board and I hope that movie offers it to me.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.