[Screen It]


(2022) (Jon Hamm, Lorenza Izzo) (R)

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Dramedy: A former investigative journalist begins investigating a stolen art-related murder where he's the prime suspect.

Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher (JON HAMM) is a former investigative journalist who's sent by his new Italian girlfriend, Angela De Grassi (LORENZA IZZO), from Rome to Boston to see if he can locate her father's valuable painting collection.

Those have been stolen -- Angela has suspicions that her stepmother, Countess Sylvia (MARCIA GAY HARDEN), is somehow involved -- and her father's been kidnapped, with those responsible wanting payment in the form of one of his most valuable pieces.

Fletch arrives at a vacant apartment owned by Owen Tasserly (JOHN BEHLMANN) only to find a dead woman on the floor. Inspector Morris Monroe (ROY WOOD JR.) and his detective partner Griz (AYDEN MAYERI) obviously initially believe that Fletch is the prime suspect -- including due to his charmingly snarky attitude about them and the incident -- but need more evidence before arresting him.

As they search for that, Fletch starts his own investigation and begins questioning several people ranging from Owen's ex-wife, Tatiana (LUCY PUNCH), a neighbor, Eve (ANNIE MUMOLO), and art dealer Ronald Moran (KYLE MacLACHLAN).

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

I don't envy casting directors when it comes to choosing performers to play roles in movie adaptations of popular books. Not only must they contend with trying to find a bankable (meaning already famous) star for the part, but they must also please the studio, producers, and director, all while hopefully not agitating fans of the novel who already have a preset notion of what the character should look like.

The same holds true when they must find a second performer to replace the first after the latter's successful run at playing such a character one or more times. Fans of the James Bond movies reportedly went crazy when Roger Moore replaced Sean Connery as 007. While not to the same degree due to the years that have passed and the far lower profile of the character and related movies, I've heard some similar grumblings about Jon Hamm replacing Chevy Chase as the smug and snarky investigative reporter Fletch.

Chase first embodied novelist Gregory Mcdonald's titular character in the 1985 comedy-thriller of the same name, and followed that up with the sequel, "Fletch Lives," four years later. It didn't fare as well as the original flick, and subsequent attempts to get Chase back for a third film or replace him with another actor failed over the ensuing decades.

Until now, and I'm happy to report that Hamm more than fills the character's empty shoes, touching on some of Chase's mannerisms while bringing his own to breathe new and, for the most part, entertaining life to the role in "Confess, Fletch."

While the flick sort of runs out of gas in the third act when the plot supersedes the character's quick-witted and smug but still oddly charming behavior that dominates the first two acts, for the most part, it's an entertaining and enjoyable diversion. And one that fits Hamm so well that I imagine we might see him reprising the role again and again.

As directed by Greg Mottola from a screenplay adaptation he co-wrote with Zev Borow (based on Mcdonald's 1976 novel of the same name), the film begins with a murder, albeit one played lightly as Fletch arrives in Boston from Rome to search for some stolen -- and quite valuable -- paintings. Those belong to the father of his new girlfriend, Angela De Grassi (Lorenza Izzo), but he's reportedly been kidnapped and those responsible want the one valued at $20 million in exchange for him.

Getting to the vacant home owned by Owen Tasserly (John Behlmann) that he's renting, Fletch discovers a woman's body on the floor and immediately goes into investigative mode, albeit in a smart aleck way, something that doesn't sit well with detectives Monroe (Roy Wood Jr.) and Griz (Ayden Mayeri) who obviously view him as the prime suspect, but don't have enough evidence yet to arrest him.

As they tail him and try to gather that, he begins interviewing various potential suspects -- Owen's wife Tatiana (Lucy Punch), a flighty neighbor, Eve (Annie Mumolo), and art dealer Ronald Moran (Kyle MacLachlan) -- all while assuming various alter-egos, including impersonating his foul-mouthed former boss (played by Hamm's former "Mad Men" co-star, John Slattery).

Early on, the dialogue is smart and funny, and Hamm uses that to his advantage in embodying the character. But as the investigation unfolds and things ultimately wrap up in the third act, some of the fun begins to evaporate. Not enough, mind you, to dry up all of the clever and humorous material, but there's no denying the nearly 100-minute film is far more entertaining earlier on than later in the proceedings.

But if anything, when people -- including casting directors -- think of the role of Fletch, it's likely Hamm who will now be first and foremost in most people's minds as the character, and that's a good thing, as is "Confess, Fletch" that rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Posted September 16, 2022

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