In the mid Eighties you had all these awesome comedy films that achieved cult status. Think Beverly Hills Cop, Weird Science, Police Academy, Ghostbusters and Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. Big hair – check. Catchy synth-pop theme tune – check. Lovable, interesting, goofy characters – check. Ticking all the boxes is 1985’s Fletch, starring the brilliant Chevy Chase as investigative reporter Irwin M. Fletcher. It’s one of Chase’s most appealing roles, offering him a platform to simply do what he does best: be funny.
Based on a character created by Gregory Mcdonald in a novel of the same name, Fletch writes for the Los Angeles Times under the pseudonym Jane Doe. A smart-aleck nuisance to his bedevilled editor, Fletch specialises in undercover investigative journalism. To his boss, the bizarre expenses and erratic behaviour often yield great stories, and Fletch engages in some strange and hilarious methods to gain his intel.
While at the beach investigating a story about drug trafficking, Fletch is offered an interesting proposition. Alan Stanwyk (played by Tim Matheson, of Animal House fame) offers Fletch $50,000 to murder him. Claiming he suffers from an incurable disease, Stanwyk outlines a plan, complete with a foolproof method of escape. Little does Stanwyk know that he is talking to the one and only Fletch, who introduces himself as Ted Nugent.
Sensing a story Fletch starts digging, only to discover that Stanwyk is not ill. In fact there is a much larger picture, which eventually reveals a drug-smuggling operation between Stanwyk and the chief of police. Ultimately, Stanwyk plans to kill Fletch, using his body as a decoy, while absconding to South America. On his way to uncovering the truth, the chameleon-like Fletch takes on a variety of aliases, complete with outrageous disguises that he uses to fool unsuspecting sources.
John Cocktoasten infiltrates a tennis club in order to speak to Stanwyk’s wife. Dr Rosenpenis accesses the records room at the hospital. Arnold Babar gets an appointment with Stanwyk’s doctor. Mr Poon schedules an interview with the chairman of Stanwyk’s company. Igor Stravinski talks to a realtor about a shady investment. These scenes provide the funniest parts of the film, where Fletch’s quick thinking and witty replies are echoed in Chase’s gifted ability to improvise.
Directed by Michael Ritchie, Fletch manages to present an air of plausibility, while inserting a bumbling lunacy into normal situations. The end result is an almost deadpan presentation that pops with Chase’s wit and charm. Fletch is a fully-fledged, basketball-loving, beer-drinking smart mouth. He’s also an extremely gifted journalist. He’s joined by some great characters, played by notable names such as Richard Libertini, Joe Don Baker and even Geena Davis in one of her earliest roles. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar makes an excellent cameo as himself.
The Blu-ray disc features the film in 1080p, in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. There are a couple of short featurettes with cast and crew, but they lack the input of Chevy Chase himself. If you own Fletch on DVD there is no reason to upgrade – it’s exactly the same presentation and added content. If you don’t, or you have never seen it, this is a must buy to add to your collection. It’s a shame that Fletch, while considered a commercial success by Universal Pictures, never really proved as popular as other films of its era. There are moments of comedy magic in this funny film. Yes it’s dated, but Fletch provides us with one of the best characters in Eighties cinema.
FLETCH (1985) / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL RITCHIE / SCREENPLAY: ANDREW BERGMAN / STARRING: CHEVY CHASE, TIM MATHESON, JOE DON BAKER, RICHARD LIBERTINI, DANA WHEELER-NICHOLSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW