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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Greg Mottola
scr Greg Mottola, Zev Borow
prd Connie Tavel, Bill Block, Jon Hamm
with Jon Hamm, Marcia Gay Harden, Kyle MacLachlan, Annie Mumolo, Ayden Mayeri, Lorenza Izzo, John Slattery, Roy Wood Jr, Kenneth Kimmins, John Behlmann, Lucy Punch, Robert Picardo
release US 16.Sep.22
22/US Miramax 1h39
Is it streaming?
It's been almost 35 years years since the snarky investigative reporter from Gregory McDonald's novels was last on-screen. And now Jon Hamm gets to have some fun with the role. He and director Greg Mottola deploy plenty of offhanded comical charm. It's never laugh-out-loud hilarious but the quirky characters and situations are amusingly ridiculous. And there's a lightness to the filmmaking that makes it feel funnier than it is.
While investigating an art theft in Rome, Fletch (Hamm) has a fling with Angela (Izzo) the daughter of his client the Count (Picardo). Then the Count is kidnapped, and the ransom demand is for one of the stolen paintings, a rare Picasso. To track it down, Fetch travels to Boston to consult expert Horan (MacLachlan). But he immediately becomes the prime suspect when a woman is found murdered in his rented apartment. Still, he keeps looking for the missing paintings while dodging the attentions of the Count's amorous wife (Harden) and several other nutcases.
Fletch never takes it remotely seriously that all evidence points to him being the killer, taunting detectives Griz and Monroe (Mayeri and Wood). He's an expert at sneaking into events, skilled at blending into the scenery or improvising a persona. And each character around him is larger than life, a collision of offbeat personalities that sometimes spirals into messy slapstick. But most of the time, Mottola nimbly maintains the levity even amid some encroaching violence.
As the story grows nuttier, Hamm's grounded goofiness holds the various plot threads together. He's effortlessly likeable as a smart guy who is virtually incapable of being ruffled by whatever crazy thing happens next. Everyone else is in Hamm's orbit, lobbing broad comedy into the mix. Harden's Countess is particularly hilarious, throwing herself at Fletch while accusing him of seducing her. And it's great to see Hamm exchange barbs with Mad Men cohort Slattery, who plays a jaded editor.
The mystery at the centre of the plot is enjoyably complicated, and it's also nicely played out in the background, just an excuse for Fletch's antics rather than the main point of the movie. This does leave the film feeling rather thin and pointless, although there are some nice character things going on that pull us in deeper than expected, especially in the connection between Fletch and Angela, and the intrepid intelligence of hapless rookie Griz. So while the whodunit wraps up neatly, it's the rest of the movie we care about.
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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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