The Best of An Alan Smithee Podcast: Episode Twenty-one
Fletch (1985, Michael Ritchie) / Fletch Lives (1989, Michael Ritchie)
Originally posted: December 7, 2012
While Fletch has its technical high lights and Andrew Bergman’s script is strong both in dialogue and structure (though the Chevy-sized plot holes are a tad rampant), the film hinges on star Chevy Chase (not a car) being arrogant, likable, sincere and funny all at once. And Chase manages it. His dry, self-aware narrative even carries the film over those jumbo plot holes.
Another major factor is the supporting cast. For the most part, Fletch has an extraordinary supporting cast, whether it’s someone with five lines (Ralph Seymour) or someone with more (Richard Libertini). Every single performance in the film is excellent with three exceptions. Joe Don Baker and Tim Matheson are both off. Baker’s too obvious and Matheson doesn’t bring any complexity. Oh, I said three. Yeah, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson isn’t excellent, she’s extraordinary. She isn’t actually in the film for many scenes, but she’s a perfect foil for Chase. Fletch wouldn’t work without her either.
As for those technical highlights… director Ritchie immediately grounds Fletch in reality–as Chase investigates drug trafficking–and it lets him layer on the absurdities later. Even when a scene fails, like a lengthy car chase, it’s still technically competent. Fred Schuler’s photography is good, Richard A. Harris’s editing is better. The Harold Faltermeyer score, while distinctive, has its ups and downs.
Fletch has too much bite to be genial; think amiable but still comfortingly cynical. Great small turns from George Wyner and, especially, Geena Davis. Fletch is a fine time.
Directed by Michael Ritchie; screenplay by Andrew Bergman, based on the novel by Gregory McDonald; director of photography, Fred Schuler; edited by Richard A. Harris; music by Harold Faltermeyer; production designer, Boris Leven; produced by Alan Greisman and Peter Douglas; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Chevy Chase (Fletch), Joe Don Baker (Chief Jerry Karlin), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Gail Stanwyk), Richard Libertini (Frank Walker), Tim Matheson (Alan Stanwyk), M. Emmet Walsh (Dr. Dolan), George Wendt (Fat Sam), Kenneth Mars (Stanton Boyd), Geena Davis (Larry), Bill Henderson (Speaker), William Traylor (Mr. Underhill), George Wyner (Gillet), Tony Longo (Detective #1), Larry Flash Jenkins (Gummy), Ralph Seymour (Creasy), James Avery (Detective #2), Reid Cruickshanks (Sergeant), Bruce French (the pathologist), Burton Gilliam (Bud), David W. Harper (Teenager), Chick Hearn (Himself), Alison La Placa (Pan Am Clerk), Joe Praml (Watchman), William Sanderson (Swarthout), Penny Santon (Velma Stanwyk), Robert Sorrells (Marvin Stanwyk) and Beau Starr (Willy); special appearance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.