There’s something so disheartening about seeing talented people drown in comedy that can’t find the rhythm of its own jokes. This adaptation of McDonald’s novel by director Greg Mottola and co-writer Zev Borow simply struggles to find its punchlines too often, occasionally getting a pleasant laugh but lacking the original’s cohesive personality. Worse still, a leading man who has proven he can do this kind of comedy before seems blocked by a director who never understood this character in dramatic or comedic terms. When it comes to mystery, it gets so cavalier it almost feels listless, and the jokes are either overplayed (a few punchlines seem literally shouted out) or underplayed to the point of disappearing. It’s starting to look more like a contractual obligation than the passion project it would have been with Smith. Admit, filmmakers, that you didn’t really want to make this film.
Jon Hamm plays Irwin M. Fletcher, a former journalist who opens the film in a relationship with a woman named Angela (Lorenza Izzo), who is in a family drama involving a woman known only as The Countess (Marcia Gay Harden) and a missing art collection. While in New York to investigate the situation, Fletch discovers a dead body in his basement, leading two cops on their own investigation – played by Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri (who has perhaps the most comedic timing). funny with Hamm) – which makes Fletch the suspect in the murder. Fletch must clear his own name, find the missing art, and engage in silly comedic hijinks along the way, including dealing with an unstable neighbor played by Annie Mumolo and reuniting with the singular John Slattery for a movie theft scene in an editorial.
None of this amounts to much in terms of plot, although that’s not too unusual for this franchise. The mystery/investigation aspect is just the skeleton to hang the comedy on, but it would have been nice if the movie felt like it had even the lowest stakes. Seems like everyone involved in “Confess, Fletch” mistakenly adopted a nonchalant tone that they believe defines this character. It’s fun to watch a character like Fletch escape hot water, but it’s never lukewarm here, and so every time the movie goes back to its plot, it sags like a bad episode of a mystery of the week on the Cable TV Show.