Based on Gregory McDonald’s novel of the same name, Fletch is a 1980s comedy film suffused in crime and mystery. Directed by Michael Ritchie, the film features good pacing, solid performances, and a story that contains a few twists. Though it is not a “must-see” film, Fletch offers enough 1980s comedic flare that it is bound to entertain viewers.
Fletch’s story focuses on Irwin M. “Fletch” Fletcher, an undercover journalist attempting identify the source of a beach drug operation. While working the beach scene, Fletch is approached by a mysterious man who invites Fletch to his mansion where he informs him he is dying of bone cancer. Shockingly, he asks Fletch to kill him. Not surprisingly, Fletch is quite skeptical and sets out to learn more about the man. Not all is as it seems, however, as the man’s odd request may be linked to the beach operation.
The film features good pacing. Fletch employs several disguises as he endeavors to acquire more information about the supposed cancer victim, Alan Stanwyk. Fortunately, these different appearances do not derail the pacing; rather, they keep pushing the story’s development forward in creative ways and act as fodder for the film’s comedic elements.
Some portions of the story are predictable, but I was pleasantly surprised that it contains a few unpredictable story beats that help the narrative stay fresh. Fletch’s tone consists of mystery, comedy, and crime. The writing does an excellent job at blending these styles.
Chevy Chase does a good job in his portrayal of Fletch. Chase’s face acting is excellent and he puts his comedic chops and timing to great use in Fletch’s various disguises. He also gets some great laugh out loud moments.
Tim Matheson’s Alan Stanwyk is a great mysterious character. Matheson’s cool delivery accentuates Stanwyk’s stoic demeanor. Stanwyk’s wife Gail, portrayed by Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, is also well acted. Wheeler-Nicholson does a great job capturing Gail’s interactions with Fletch and her reactions to the situation.
The film’s cinematography is suitable for this type of film, which is not necessarily conducive to artistic, creative shots. Nevertheless, Fred Schuler’s use of close-ups nicely capture Chase’s facial features and reactions, which are likely to garner laughs from viewers. Additionally, Fletch’s music is set in typical 1980s style. Heavy synth and energetic tempos keep the music active and fun.
Michael Ritchie does an adequate job in his direction. He is able to transfer Andrew Bergman and Phil Alden Robinson’s screenplay from Gregory McDonald’s novel to the silver screen in a seamless manner. It was nice that the film is not wholly predictable, which holds viewers’ attention during their screening. Ritchie is also able to get solid performances from his actors, particularly Chase and those who play the “straight man” to Chase’s comedy.
In conclusion, Fletch is not a must-see film, but if you are looking for a fun, lesser-known comedy with crime and mysterious undertones or simply one with a 1980s aesthetic, then you will probably be entertained by Fletch.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Production: Universal Pictures; Vincent Pictures
Director: Michael Ritchie
Producer: Peter Douglas; Alan Greisman
Screenwriter: Gregory McDonald (book); Andrew Bergman (screenplay); Phil Alden Robinson (screenplay)
Director of Photography: Fred Schuler
Editor: Richard A. Harris
Production Designer: Boris Leven
Music: Harold Faltermeyer
Costume Designer: Gloria Gresham
Budget: ca. $8,000,000
Release Date: May 31, 1985 (USA)
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Copyright Holder: Universal City Studios, Inc.
Cast: Chevy Chase; Tim Matheson; Dana Wheeler-Nicholson; Joe Don Baker; Richard Libertini; M. Emmet Walsh; George Wendt; Kenneth Mars; Geena Davis
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Rating: PG; Descriptors: N/A
Running Time: 1 hour and 38 minutes (98 mins.)