Friday, 9 September 2016

Retro Review: Fletch (1985)

Directed by Michael Ritchie 
Cast: Chevy Chase, Joe Don Baker, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Geena Davis, Larry ''Trash'' Jenkins, George Wendt, James Avery
Genre: Comedy Action-Adventure Thriller
Studio: Universal Pictures

Plot: 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 story behind the offer 

'Objectively, Fletch Is Good As A Investigative Movie, Subjectively However, It Is Not Highly Amusing As A Comedy' 

As an undercover investigative journalist, Irwin W. Fletcher aka Fletch looks into local drug trafficking on L.A beaches- only to find himself getting caught up in police corruption, insurance fraud, embezzlement in this feature length adaptation of Gregory Macdonald's novel.

The humour in this film isn't low brow as say in a classic Robin Williams or Jim Carrey movie - it's more on the lines of Steve Martin or Bill Murray's Caddyshack: quick -witted and you have to listen to the line or watch the gags, in order to get the joke. Therefore, it was difficult to understand some of the humour as I'm not usually familiar with Chevy's brand of deadpan comedy, which is heavily reliant on one-liners and so, many of them do go over my head. 

There are some interesting early appearances by Geena Davis - who puts in a good performance and the late James Avery from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air as one of the cops. The supporting cast are just as effective in this movie as the lead star, and they all lend themselves very well and have the ability to bounce off Chase as their characters. 

There are scenes of him donning amusing disguises such as Fletch with the Afro as a L.A Lakers basketball player & faking his way into a hospital as a surgeon, as he tries to dig out information for his scoop; a source for the majority of the film's humour and the so-called action sequences are done well. 

As a standalone investigative mystery movie, Fletch succeeds much better as the former, as opposed to the latter as a comedy. I know I'm the minority when I say as I watched this movie, I was hoping it was going to be similar to The Three Amigos when it came to the comedy aspect; I loved that film & it's one of my favourite comedy movies from the 1980s, and that one also starred Steve Martin and Martin Short. I just loved the humour in it. But with Fletch, that is not the case. It is a very hit-and-miss affair altogether. Objectively, when it tries to function as a straight-up mystery film, Fletch is very effective in that department. There are 2 or 3 scenes that illustrate this point well. Yet subjectively, when it tries to be naturally comedic, it doesn't always work well. 

The impression I was getting as I was watching Fletch is that it feels more like a version of Beverly Hills Cop - minus Eddie Murphy's wisecracks (and thanks to the Harold Faltermeyer's '80s electro score) and lot less like National Lampoon's National Vacation. Had Fletch been more like a farce comedy or a parody of akin to Naked Gun, I'd probably enjoy it more. It would have done the movie a huge service by also showcasing some of Chevy's line of classic SNL comedy. 

Final Verdict:

Over 30 years on, it still holds up well to this day. 

I would for the record go on to say Fletch is more of an acquired taste and if you are a fan of Chevy Chase, you'd enjoy it even more. The film is uneven in places, particularly with the humour - though I guess you need to get by the dry wit, but it is pretty good as an outright mystery film. Compared to my other favourite Michael Ritchie's movies, The Survivors and Wildcats, comedy-wise, I don't enjoy it as much, but with everything else, Fletch is just as good. 


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