OCTOBER 26, 2008
I consider Fletch to be one of my top 3 favorite films, along with Armageddon and Halloween. Each has a different reason for being there; Halloween inspired me to be a filmmaker, and Armageddon is just pure entertainment from start to finish (given the choice on a random day, I’d probably watch Armageddon over Halloween, simply because its kitchen-sink and frenetic style lends itself to repeat viewings more than Carpenter’s otherwise superior film). So why is Fletch in there? Simple: it inadvertently formed the very nature of my being.
See, I watched the movie constantly as a kid, and then stopped around 1992 (around when I started really getting into horror and also losing interest in Chevy due to his increasingly bad films). But when I finally gave it another watch in 2000, I was amazed to discover how many of “my” mannerisms and odd sayings were actually from Fletch. I’m STILL picking up on some; there’s a bit in the film where he somehow manages a sarcastic nod as Stanwyk is explaining why he wants Fletch to kill him, and when that scene came up today I realized I do the same thing when someone is boring me.
And that’s just one example; others include: “Excuse you?”, knocking on a door and saying “Come in!” myself, “No, never, never...”, turning and watching someone leave a room for no reason (the “Frida’s boss” scene), and many others that would take too much effort to explain away. In short, if you’ve ever thought I was a bit odd in person – just watch Fletch, and I’ll make about 34% more sense. But I swear, it was all unintentional; other than actual quotes (“I’ll have a Bloody Mary, and a steak sandwich, and... a steak sandwich please.”) I have never intentionally referenced the movie, and wasn’t even aware these things were “from” anything, let alone all one guy in one film.
The real draw, though, is just how damn effortlessy funny Chevy is in the movie. If anything he could stand to drop the act a bit, as it borders on annoying at times. Like when he goes to Stanwyk’s for the first time, and says four rather unfunny lines in a row. Just shut up, man! Or at least say something that aids the plot. Still, for every line that doesn’t work, there’s about 5 that do, and I still laugh my ass off at some lines, after countless viewings. One part that always kills me is when he first meets Stanwyk. “Look, are you on a scavenger hunt or did I just forget to pay my dinner check?” And even more amazing is how funny the movie is when Chevy is the only one who gets any laughs. Everyone plays the straight man (though Arnold T. Pants, Esquire and Frank get a good line or two each), and while some movies like this fail miserably, Fletch succeeds.
Part of that success is due to the plot, which is hardly labyrinthine but certainly more developed than your average 80’s comedy. I dig how the two plot threads ultimately combine, Johny Gossamer style, and it’s a pretty decent mystery as well. One thing the sequel got wrong is a completely obvious villain in a single story, which served only to provide Chevy a means of wearing disguises. There are two villains here, and while it’s hardly a shock when Karlin is revealed to be one of them, the way he figures into the other plot is a decent enough surprise.
The “Jane Doe” special edition is pretty disappointing. The primary issue (besides the fact that director Michael Ritchie, and now novelist Gregory MacDonald are both dead) is that Chevy had no involvement with it. He’s not against contributing to new DVDs (the first two Vacations, for example) and since Fletch is his signature role, his absence is quite puzzling. Still, there’s an OK enough retrospective (it would be even better without the “host” who tries to be funny, and fails miserably), and a brief look at the makeup appliances. That’s about it. The original DVD was out of print forever, so when this edition came out fans were excited, but beyond having a new transfer for the movie there’s nothing here worth buying if you had the original. I like that it was one of the last movies to be released on HD DVD though; it’s the least necessary movie for a high def transfer ever. See Fletch’s... uh, Laker jersey in glorious 1080p, I guess!
What say you?