Fletch (1985)
March 8, 2023 10:32 AM - Subscribe

Irwin M. "Fletch" Fletcher is a newspaper reporter being offered a large sum to off a cancerous millionaire, but is on the run, risking his job and finding clues when it's clear the man is healthy.

A veritable chameleon, investigative reporter Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher (Chevy Chase) might drive his editor (Richard Libertini) up the wall, but he always produces great pieces for the newspaper. When his next story is about the drug trade taking place on the beach, Fletch goes undercover as a homeless man. Unaware of Fletch's true identity, businessman Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson) offers Fletch $50,000 to kill him. Intrigued, Fletch decides to unearth the full story behind the offer.

Roger Ebert:

Why did Chevy Chase want to play I.M. Fletcher, the laconic hero of Gregory McDonald's, bestsellers? Was it because Chase saw a way to bring Fletch to life? Or was it, more likely, because Chase thought Fletch was very much like himself? The problem with "Fletch" is that the central performance is an anthology of Chevy Chase mannerisms in search of a character. Other elements in the movie are pretty good: the supporting characters, the ingenious plot, the unexpected locations. But whenever the move threatens to work, there's Chevy Chase with his monotone, deadpan cynicism, distancing himself from the material.

"Fletch" is not the first movie that Chase has undercut with his mannerisms, but it is the best one-since "Foul Play," anyway. His problem as an actor is that he perfected a personal style on "Saturday Night Live" all those many years ago, and has never been able to work outside of it. The basic Chevy Chase personality functions well at the length of a TV sketch, when there's no time to create a new character, but in a movie it grows deadening. "Fletch" is filled with a series of extraordinary situation, and Chase seems to react to all of them with the same wry dubiousness.

Edward Gibbons-Brown: This is the world that Fletch inhabits: brutal, unequal, and unjust. His cool, wise-ass demeanor becomes a lot more compelling in this context. With the wrong material, Chevy Chase's vacant, laconic acting style can be deadening. But as Fletch navigates these dangers, his laid-back confidence seems downright heroic. Even Chase's infamous arrogance and mean streak seem to track within this context. If you sense angry resentment beneath the placid surface of Fletch's quick wit, all the better. Look at the people he's going up against.

Vincent Canby: The ''Fletch'' ads don't say so, but Mr. Chase's screen personality - subversive in an entirely benign way, a slightly mussed-up example of the neat, buttoned-down class that bred him - defines the easy charm of this comic mystery film about a Los Angeles investigative reporter, dope-dealing cops and a wealthy business executive who takes out a contract for his own murder.

Mr. Chase as Fletch, the hard-nosed reporter who writes under the name Jane Doe (''Leftovers Are Haute Cuisine!''), is very much like Mr. Chase the television personality (''Saturday Night Live''). He manages simultaneously to act the material with a good deal of nonchalance and to float above it, as if he wanted us to know that he knows that the whole enterprise is somewhat less than transcendental. In other performers, this mannerism can be both tiresome and just a little cowardly, indicating that the performer is willing to take credit for the good things but can't be held responsible for the bad.

posted by Carillon (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I saw this for the first time, and really wished I liked it more. I heard it was so funny and quotable, that it was the height of a certain comedic lens. And it should have been! There's a lot there that I would think would make me laugh, but man it felt like a miss in a lot of ways. I think it's Chevy Chase. He's so central to the movie, and I can't imagine it without him (still have to see confess fletch), but I came out of this thinking it was fine, not great. The past is a foreign country and all that.
posted by Carillon at 10:34 AM on March 8, 2023

I heard it was so funny and quotable, that it was the height of a certain comedic lens.

*snerk* At some point, early on, someone asks Fletch if he can do them a favor, and his initial reply is, "would it require me dressing up like Little Bo Peep?" And sometimes I use that myself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on March 8, 2023

When I was younger, I really enjoyed this. When I was older and read the books all I could ever see was Chevy Chase being Chevy Chase. How much that works for you, depends on your feelings regarding that angle.

But I do still say "it's all ball bearings these days!" a lot... more than is necessary probably.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:11 AM on March 8, 2023 [2 favorites]

I've always refused to see this movie, because I read the book first, and the personality and appearance of the book Fletch is so completely different from Chase that I couldn't deal. I've mellowed a bit since then; maybe I need to give Chevy a chance.

BTW, if you haven't read the books, do. Reading the original, cold, with no idea what was coming, was mind-blowing. Gregory McDonald executes it perfectly. (He won two Edgars, iirc).

And Fletch, Too -- the last of them, until he penned a sequel years later -- pulls off one of the most remarkable writing tricks I've ever seen. I can't say anything more about it , but when you read it, you'll smile and do a *slow clap*.
posted by martin q blank at 11:22 AM on March 8, 2023

I recently watched the new Fletch reboot starring Jon Hamm and quite liked it. A good mystery and funny script and you didn't have to deal with Chevy Chase.
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:29 AM on March 8, 2023 [3 favorites]

Fletch is a movie I know very well. First of all, Harold Faltermeyer's work on the soundtrack is a big part of the 80s for me. As for the rest, Fletch is hit and miss for me. Fletch's characterization is scattershot, IMO. I agree, much of Chevy's performance is Chevy being Chevy, which ruins some scenes for me (in the jail for instance, when Fletch is being put in a cell to be cowed or killed, he hits his head, which is typical Chevy Chase). Tim Matheson is excellent, though.
posted by Stuka at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2023

I love the movie Fletch, but I agree Chevy Chase is just being Chevy Chase and it's not a very good adaptation of the book. ("He is actually six-five, with the afro, six-nine." And I often think, "what kind of name is 'Poon'?")

Jon Hamm comes closer to the book's Fletch in Confess, Fletch, and it's an enjoyable, fun movie, but I don't love it.

Fletch Lives: ugh.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:08 PM on March 8, 2023

Every time I've turned over a mattress, moved one, or cleaned under the bed, and scraped up against a mattress tag, I've always thought of the Mattress Police.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:10 PM on March 8, 2023

I think Ebert kind of nailed it in the review quoted in the write-up. There's a pretty decent mystery plot (and a fair bit better than average for that era) here that's smothered by way too much Chevy Chase.

His comparison to Foul Play is interesting to me, too. It is a favorite movie of one of my sisters and as a family we watched it many times during the VHS era - enough so that I could probably still quote a decent fraction of the dialog. But now that I think of it, the parts that are most enjoyable are the bits where Goldie Hawn is on her own. (Or with her co-worker Stella. Nobody messes with Stella unless Stella wants to be messed.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:58 PM on March 8, 2023 [1 favorite]

So - I would have been about 14-15 when I saw this on endless repeat on Superchannel - and I loved it - and the sequels. But now, I don't think I could do it - especially given Chase's behaviour over the decades.
posted by rozcakj at 5:56 AM on March 9, 2023

Was a big fan of this and Foul Play and his earlier nuclear waste flick, Modern Problems, may years ago. But I don't believe I would enjoy those now since Chevy is Chevy.

Though, I'd still watch Foul Play for Goldie Hawn and Burgess Meredith. I haven't seen the Hamm Fletch but he should totally do Foul Play.
posted by Glinn at 7:38 AM on March 9, 2023

I put "Modern Problems" on DVD and it is terrible. How many millions of dollars were spent for what is only extant today as a coke joke GIF?
posted by infinitewindow at 1:14 PM on March 9, 2023

One of the earliest soundtrack albums I bought with my own money (on cassette), it wasn't released on cd until 2018. I bought that cd version again, and I still think Dan Hartman's "Get Out of Town, Fletch" is wonderful 80's cheese pop.
Requisite 80's film-clip music video.
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 3:34 PM on March 21, 2023

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