Who knew that Jon Hamm would end up being this generation’s Chevy Chase? Ok, not even close. But it’s interesting how Hamm has parlayed his fame as America’s most narcissistic, sociopathic, possible borderline personality disordered ad man into a mid-career as a kind of charming goofball. Which, if you’ve ever seen the original, endlessly-quoted-by-every-1980s-eigth-grade-boy-ever Fletch, it’s kind of that character’s bag. You wouldn’t immediately think of Hamm in the role, but even with less disguises, physical comedy and stupid-ass word-play, he really fits the bill in this version of Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher.
This is apparently the third in the book series to be turned into a movie. Following the original, and the incredibly forgettable 1989 flop, Fletch Lives (also starring Chase). Look, this is not a plot-heavy movie. I mean there is one, but it’s kind of nonsense. It’s a crime comedy with a crime that nobody seems to really care about. It’s art theft. Well, it’s art theft and then it’s murder. But of a woman we never meet and know absolutely nothing about. She’s a faceless dead body. Which seems intentional. Honestly, the whole film feels like one giant attempt to get Hamm into rooms with other people he can play off of. Including his old running mate from Mad Men, John Slattery. That also felt incredibly intentional, as Slattery plays his old boss, and their slightly adversarial, though close and begrudgingly loving relationship, is very similar feeling. I have no clue how close they hewed to the book on which this is based, but the thing basically feels like a bunch of connected scenes strung together in a way that is very loosely working its way to a conclusion. It has a very The Big Lebowski vibe, with Fletch as The Dude. And, sure, he’s less stoned (though does seem to drink quite a bit), and not quite as clueless, but he, like The Dude, is constantly running into characters who may or may not be connected to a mystery that we almost don’t recall by the middle of the film. Mostly because we’re just happy hanging with the main character.
That all said, the movie is a pretty breezy affair. Meaning that it just kind of chugs along with Hamm pulling faces and generally doing a “Who Me?” shrug for its entirety. Sprinkled with sarcasm and some punchy one-liners. He’s pretty casual for a guy accused of murder. Even from the second he discovers a dead body in the apartment he’s sent to live in, he’s kind of ho-hum about it. I think that’s part of the schtick. We don’t really know who Fletch is. We don’t get into the whole modern-day thing where we need to know his backstory and get deep into his psyche. He’s just kind of dickish cad who is dating a woman twenty years his junior maybe just because she’s rich. And doesn’t seem particularly into her, even if he does think that perhaps she’s the reason he’s been framed for the aforementioned murder. It’s a role that — if it were set in London — would have been a Hugh Grant banger. The point is, Fletch isn’t supposed to be the hero here. He also isn’t a bad guy. He’s just kind of a dude living his life — a highly regarded former reporter, according to him. Who now just seems to kind of hang and sponge off his young girlfriend. Until, that is, she puts him to work and gets him mired in this situation when she sends him to Italy to get her billionaire farther’s art collection, which was demanded as ransom for his return from some mystery kidnappers. See? Nonsense.
Like I was saying, this is a pretty easy watch. It’s Hamm bullshitting in apartments, on boats, in parks with other people. Fun people, like Marcia Gay Harden and Kyle MacLachlan. The whole thing is only about 90 minutes, and it definitely has the feeling of a lower budget film that had to find some corners to cut and efficiencies to find location and length-wise. None of which really detracts from the film. In fact, in this day and age of three-hour Marvel movies, it felt genuinely old-fashioned in a good way. A light comedy? Who the heck does that? It definitely feels like they made this thing as a direct Gen-X target. A nostalgia for the Fletch franchise starring Liz Lemon’s handsome idiot boyfriend from 30 Rock! And while this Fletch doesn’t don false teeth or spew lines like a Chevy Chase quote machine, he is a pretty fun hang nonetheless.