Thursday, May 13, 2010
“You using the whole fist, Doc?”
I have to admit I’ve never watched the 1985 Chevy Chase comedy Fletch before. Not sure how it happened, but there you go. The good news is that I’ve watched it now.
So, our Hero, Fletch, is an investigative journalist in LA who uses disguises to achieve deep cover to find stories that he publishes under the alias “Jane Doe.” While he’s pretending to be a homeless drug addict to investigate a smuggling operation, he gets approached by a millionaire with an interesting proposition. The millionaire, dying of cancer, wants Fletch to murder him in a week’s time so that his wife can collect on the life insurance. Then things get weird with Fletch donning various disguises to try and figure out what’s going on in a solid parody of hard-boiled detective stories. Hilarity ensues.
Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher: Chevy Chase is our deadpan hero. He’s got a fantastically successful column, but doesn’t really enjoy the glory since its written under a pseudonym, he’s constantly being hounded by his ex wife’s lawyer for money, so yeah, he’s a pretty flawed character. Guy’s also obsessed to Jack Nicholson levels with the LA Lakers. The comedy involves Chase doing what he does best, straightfaced delivery of off-center dialogue and general bullshitting. Fairly badass.
Alan Stanwyk: Tim Matheson is the rich guy who wants Fletch to murder him. Now, since Fletch isn’t actually a homeless drug addict, the reporter starts snooping around and finds that Stanwyck’s NOT actually terminally ill.
Gail Stanwyk: Dana Wheeler-Nicholson is Stanwyck’s wife and someone that Fletch becomes VERY interested in investigating closely. Preferably between the sheets.
Chief Jerry Karlin: Joe Don Baker plays a corrupt cop who’s got a station of ne’er-do-well police working for him.
There’s also George Wendt (Norm from Cheers), Kenneth Mars (from several Mel Brooks films) and Geena Davis in smaller roles, among other people.
Directed by Michael Ritchie, the movie looks fine but isn’t amazing or anything. Mostly, the visuals serve to get Chevy Chase from one scene to another where he can be all funny and stuff. The makeup effects that were used on him for his various disguises range from nothing special to pretty damn good, depending on the character he’s playing.
Based on a novel by Gregory McDonald and adapted for the screen by Andrew Bergman (who worked on Blazing Saddles and, uh, Striptease) the plot could very easily work in the hard boiled detective or film noir genres. In fact, part of the comedy is that the plot and most of the characters are treating the movie that way while Fletch spends the entire time snarking his way through and completely wrecking that illusion of seriousness.
Original score by Harold (the guy who wrote “Axel F” for Beverly Hills Cop) Faltermeyer. He wrote the theme song for the movie, “Bit By Bit” and there are some other very 80s songs throughout the movie.
You know, I was pleasantly surprised with Fletch. It wasn’t as “knee-slappin’ hee-haw’in” funny as I thought it would be, but its incredibly clever and much better plotted than I expected. It’s a solid comedy.
And no, I don’t think there’s a need to track down the 1989 sequel Fletch Lives.
That's...actually an awful trailer.