Movie Review: Hamm eases into the laughs in “Confess, Fletch”

Jon Hamm makes it look too damned easy in “Confess, Fletch,” a LONG awaited reboot of a franchise that gave Chevy Chase more credit than he deserved for its appeal. Hamm never hits the laughs too hard, lies on the fly like he learned it at birth and leans into the working-hard/hardly working Fletch way of “investigating” in a lightweight comedy that has no guffaws, but a steady stream of chuckles from beginning to end.

Gregory McDonald’s “former investigative journalist of some repute,” a wordsmith always-ready with a comeback, a sly slacker who can’t throw a punch, or take one, fits Hamm like the battered and much-loved Lakers hat that he wears everywhere, with sportscoat and sneakers, no matter what the dress code. He’s white and handsome, so he fits in without fitting in. At a snooty yacht club, for instance, whose commodore regales him on some long ago felony that the old gent brushes off as a lark.

“Nothing like a little consequence-free fun for the idle rich.”

“Confess, Fletch” is a caper comedy/murder mystery that concerns stolen paintings, a kidnapped Italian count, a clever frame-up and a Boston cop hellbent — but also in a laid-back way — on pinning a murder on the insufferable Lakers fan disturbing his piece of Celtic Nation.

Greg Mottola’s film follows Fletch all around Beantown, without voice-over narration, without any overt explanation of what he’s cannily plotting out, what Fletch suspects, or when Fletch first gets in over his head. And Hamm sets the tone with his unconcerned, make-myself-a-drink call to the police when the townhouse his rich girlfriend (Lorenza Izzo) has rented for him to track down her family’s missing paintings turns out to have a dead woman in it.

The precinct insists Fletch call 911. Fletch cannot make the effort.

“Can you just tell homicide? It’s at 5 Union Park. They like murders!”

When it becomes obvious that Fletch is the one and only real suspect of “Detective Inspector Monroe,” aka “Slo Mo Monroe” (Roy Wood Jr., superb), our hero has one more thing to add to his “to do” list. Find missing painting or paintings, return one so that rich girlfriend’s dad can be ransomed free of his kidnappers, figure out who the REAL killer is and charming, offhandedly throwing the cops off the trail so that he’s free to dig and plot and banter with his old L.A. newspaper editor (John Slattery, Hamm’s “Mad Men” mate) now struggling to keep a Boston rag from going under.

Hey, “The police are following me around!”

“Oh good. I hope it’s for something serious. I need a pick-me-up!”

Kyle MacLachlan plays a variation of his “How I Met Your Mother” character, a sketchy, patrician art-dealing yachtsman (and germophobe).

Lucy Punch is tagged as a dizzy “lifestyle curator” (interior decorator) for the well-heeled. Marcia Gay Harden slings an Italo-Portuguese goulash accent as the “countess” to the kidnapped count.

Nobody knocks anything out of the park, but this “Fletch” piles up the singles and doubles, an endless parade of funny lines almost always just thrown away, casually.

“My pen name is Ralph Locke.”

“Sounds made up.”

“It’s…a pen name.”

Words of comfort for the grieving Italian daughter?

“I’m sure the Italian police are working around the clock on his case…or at least near a clock.”

Fletch uses a LOT of ride shares, “FIVE stars” he quips as he gets out of every car.

“Person of interest LEAVING the building,” he announces to the cops as he makes an exit, a muttered “I am an idiot” aside makes Det. Inspector Monroe’s day.

“Finally, a consensus,” Wood’s Monroe half-whispers on our behalf.

“Fletch” was such an attractive character that many have tried to reboot this potential franchise. These aren’t deep mysteries or comic thrillers sure to guarantee an all-star supporting cast, although Harden is an Oscar winner, and MacLachlan, Wood, Punch and Slattery are no slouches.

Is this franchise “renewed” with “Confess, Fletch?” Sure. I could totally see more of these if Hamm is game, but probably directed straight to Paramount+.

Rating:  R for language, some sexual content and drug use.

Cast: Jon Hamm, Lorenza Izzo, Roy Wood, Jr., Marcia Gay Harden, Ayden Mayeri, Kyle MacLachlan, and John Slattery

Credits: Directed by Greg Mottola, scripted by Zev Borow and Greg Mottola, based on the Gregory McDonald novel. A Paramount release of a Miramax film.

Running time: 1:38

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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