If Confess, Fletch had been released twenty years ago it would now be a movie people cite as the kind Hollywood never makes anymore. Since it’s coming out in 2022, that would seem to prove them wrong. Apparently studios can still deliver an entertaining low-to-medium budget comedy for adults. And yet, those who miss the era when theaters had an abundance of these films playing every week aren’t wrong about the tyranny of big budget blockbusters. Because Confess, Fletch—starring Jon Hamm (finally) in a big screen role perfectly suited for him—is only getting a limited theatrical release to coincide with its on demand debut. And this movie is too damn fun for it to already feel like it doesn’t really matter.
Confess, Fletch is a combination murder-mystery/art-heist comedy. Based on Gregory McDonald’s novel, it stars Hamm as former investigative reporter Irwin Maurice “Fletch” Fletcher. He’s seemingly framed for a young woman’s death after his rich Italian girlfriend Angela (Lorenza Izzo) sends him to Boston to retrieve a missing Picasso painting she needs to ransom back her father.
The film is a total reboot of the franchise, based on McDonald’s series. Hamm is not playing the same character Chevy Chase did in the ’80s. The two versions share some similarities, especially a willingness to put themselves in danger and lie about their identity. But there are plenty of differences between them. And none of them are bigger than their general attitudes.
Chase’s Fletch was sardonic and smug, while Hamm’s is far more charming and goofy. That continues to be a winning approach. The original Fletch succeeded by embracing Chase’s strengths, just as Confess, Fletch succeeds by embracing Hamm’s. He’s undeniably likable, but just naive and carefree enough that you never know how much of his behavior is genuine stupidity and how much is an act. That not only makes the character more compelling, it adds another level of intrigue to everything that’s happening. You’re never sure just how much Fletch does or doesn’t know. That uncertainty is fun throughout, and more than pays off by the end.
(Note: If you’re worried about this movie living up to the 1985 film don’t. I love the first Fletchbut I wasn’t even thinking about Chase’s film while watching Hamm’s.)
But while the movie wouldn’t work if Hamm wasn’t a blast to spend time with, the whole cast is excellent. Roy Wood Jr.’s skilled-but-exhausted Detective Monroe is a perfect foil for the easy-going Fletch. And Monroe’s underling Griz (Ayden Mayeri) is a constant source of joy as she tries to keep up with the murder investigation’s number one suspect. (Fletch has seemingly been framed for the killing.)
And, no surprise, Kyle MacLachlan is fantastic as a germaphobic art dealer with an electronic dance music obsession. I know his musical preference reads like a cheap gag, but his love of EDM leads to multiple laugh out loud moments.
The film also features Marcia Gay Harden as The Countess, a ridiculous Italian woman convinced her kidnapped husband is already dead. She comes into the film like a relief pitcher throwing 100 mph and never lets up. Give The Countess a spinoff movie and I promise I’ll watch. I’d also very much like to see more of John Slattery’s newspaper editor Frank. His unbridled anger and general disgust at everything and everyone adds another fun dynamic to the film’s humor.
The film’s comedy and consistent tone is ultimately why Confess, Fletch it’s so enjoyable. It’s goal is to entertain and it does, in large part by delivering jokes from start to finish. Not every one lands, but when they do they really land. And even when they don’t they’re rarely, if ever, bad.
The movie does have some issues, though. The interconnected investigation of the missing art/kidnapped father/murdered young woman is one worth caring about. But the script never finds the right balance of investing in its many suspects so we know why each should be taken seriously as potential killers. Other suspects include a wacky neighbor, a rich landlord addicted to drugs, and a scorned ex-wife. But they all needed way more screen time for the film’s big payoff to feel as chaotic as the movie wanted it to. Confess, Fletch either needed another 20 minutes or it needed to cut a character or two.
I also suspect most people will figure out the case twenty minutes before the big revelation. If you see it coming, too, it will dull the impact of the primary ending. The good news is the movie has some other tricks still up its sleeve, and those unpredictable surprises are wholly satisfying in a way the main mystery’s resolution isn’t.
But the film’s shortcomings pale in comparison to everything it does right. Confess, Fletch might not be perfect, but it’s exactly the type of movie you walk out of with zero regrets for having given it your time and money. (You’ll also hope it gets many sequels.)
And yet my bet is thanks to it’s dual on demand/limited number of theaters release and shockingly lack of promotion, not many people will see it anytime soon. That probably won’t happen until it ends up on basic cable someday, when everyone discovers this delightful little movie and watches it roughly 300 times.
And when they do I know what they’ll say: “They don’t make movies like these anymore!” Turns out they do. They just don’t promote and release them like they used to. The way Confess, Fletch should have been.
Confess, Fletch comes to digital and limited theaters on September 16.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.