The following review contains absolutely no spoilers!
Based on a novel by Gregory McDonald and adapted into a screenplay by Andrew Bergman, ‘Fletch’ is an 80s comedy in every sense. From the cars right the way through to the infectious music, if you’re an 80s kid then this is sure to be a nostalgia trip for the ages.
Even though I myself am a 90s boy through and through, I could still fully appreciate the style and tone of this hilarious comedy starring the one and only Chevy Chase. Fletch, or Irwin Fletcher to use his real name, is a newspaper reporter working undercover on the beach trying to get to the bottom of a drug trafficking scandal.
He then gets taken to the house of millionaire Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson) who offers him a proposal: $50,000 to shoot him. He claims to have bone cancer which will soon enough begin eating him alive and he wants Fletch to do him and his family a favour by killing him. He has planned it all out, and he takes Fletch through the process which ends with him jumping on a plane to Rio de Janeiro. Fletch accepts.
However, once he starts digging around and fact checking Stanwyk’s history, it’s clear that there is far more to this than Fletch could have anticipated.
This proposal and the resulting digging, side tracks Fletch from his undercover work and he comes under extreme pressure from his newspaper boss to finish the drug scandal story. While juggling both cases, he realises that they may well be connected. Cue hilarity.
Working undercover requires Fletch to disguise as multiple characters, somehow worming his way into places he simply shouldn’t be, but his quick mouth gets him out of almost every situation. Key word – almost.
Chevy Chase is absolutely magnificent as the titular character. He’s smart, he’s fast, he’s smooth and above all else he is incredibly funny. Aside from the classic 1980 golfing comedy ‘Caddyshack‘, and a very small cameo in the horrendous ‘Vacation‘ remake from last year, I have not seen anything with him in. I know he’s in the TV show ‘Community‘ but I don’t watch that, although I know my Film Night colleague Richie is a big fan.
Throughout the entire film I couldn’t stop noticing the similarities in the style of performance between him and Jim Carrey. Chase’s performance was slightly more toned down than what we’ve come to expect with the extraordinarily extravagant Carrey, but the facial expressions and the dry delivery of the lines really reminded me of the ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ actor.
Alongside the main plot, there is of course a love interest for Fletch and she comes in the form of Alan Stanwyk’s young wife Gail played by Dana Wheeler-Nicholson. She is completely oblivious to her husband’s many secrets and Fletch sympathises with her and the two form a close bond. This leads to one of the best scenes in the film at an exclusive tennis club, in which Fletch gains entry to Gail’s room and charges a $400 lunch to another couple’s tab.
I cannot review this film without talking about the incredible 80s music soundtrack that plays pretty much throughout. It is simply the most infectious soundtrack to a film that I can remember hearing. Technically of course it is not as impressive as some of the huge scores that are written for blockbusters like ‘Star Wars’ or a Tarantino epic, but it is just so feel good that it is very hard to beat. There is a certain little rhythm played on a synthesiser that pops up again and again, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but I still haven’t managed to get it out of my head.
When this music is combined with one hell of a car chase, you are in 80s film heaven. The stunts are truly impressive and it isn’t a flash in the pan by any means. The entire chase must last at least five minutes which may not sound long but it feels like forever. The fact that Fletch hijacks a poor teenagers car, with him still in it, to escape the police makes it even funnier. Definitely a highlight.
With the unrelenting comedy and fantastic one liners that Fletch delivers, the actual mystery that he is trying to uncover could easily become lost, but this isn’t the case at all. This is not a film where you can switch your brain off, the mystery is actually very well constructed and it is genuinely gripping I think. The story is truly solid and it unfolds very well and the climactic scene doesn’t disappoint. By nature, this film isn’t even really a comedy, it’s just that Fletch is such a comical man!
Most of the supporting cast are strong but Richard Libertini who plays Frank Walker, Fletch’s boss at the paper is a little wooden and only really has one gear.
The script is truly great, it’s filled to bursting with cracking jokes but they are not overdone and they never become weary. They are placed at just the right moments and when you have a comedic actor in the calibre of Chevy Chase delivering them, you’re sure to succeed. It is such a quotable film, with so many memorable moments such as “I’ll have a bloody Mary, a steak sandwich… and a steak sandwich” or “Can I borrow your towel? My car just hit a water buffalo”. Brilliant.
A barrel of laughs with a top-of-his-game Chevy Chase. It really is a laugh a minute with some wonderful deadpan humour. Extremely quotable, a soundtrack to die for, and a strong mystery storyline that isn’t just there to pad out the laughs. What’s not to like?