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Fletch (1985)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/2/2009

All Rating Out Of:
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/30/2009

Movie fans love to exaggerate. I don't know why, but it's certainly in their nature. How many times have you heard someone refer to a movie as "the worst movie ever made" when it clearly isn't? In a similar sense, film lovers will often talk about the "movie that changed their life". How often does this really happen? For me, there are two movies which came close. Halloween was the first film which made me realize that the director is really behind the camera pulling the strings. Evil Dead taught me that the camera can go anywhere. These films taught me a lot about what movies can be, but they didn't actually change my life. However, there is one movie which meets this criteria. I had been a smart-ass all my life, but it was Fletch which helped me to hone my craft, and I still love this movie to this day.

Fletch tells the story of investigative reporter Irwin M. Fletcher (Chevy Chase), who is known to his friends as "Fletch". As the film opens, Fletch has been posing as a junkie while looking into drug trafficking on the beaches of Los Angeles. He's approached by Alan Stanwyk (Tim Matheson) who offers Fletch a sum of money to murder him. Stanwyk explains that he's dying and that he wants to bypass the suffering and make sure that his wife, Gail (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), gets the insurance money. Fletch begins to investigate Stanwyk and learns that there are many holes in the man's story. As Fletch digs deeper, he become close to Gail. Meanwhile, his editor, Frank (Richard Libertini), demands work on the drug/beach story. Fletch's digging in both stories brings him closer to the truth, but closer to danger as well.

Fletch is based on a novel by Gregory McDonald, which I have not read. While I'm sure that the book has some humorous moments and themes, I would be willing to bet that it focuses more on the plot and mystery. With Fletch, the movie certainly delivers with a coherent and cohesive mystery/intrigue story, but the movie is worth watching and will always be remembered for the comedy.

For some reason, Chevy Chase has fallen out of favor with the whole world, but in the 80s, he was one of the funniest actors working in film. Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Vacation solidified Chase as a comedic movie start, but, for me, it was Fletch which really showcased his talents. Chase had a knack for two things, being a condescending wise-ass and being a clumsy goofball. In Fletch, he's able to bring both of these talents to the table. As an investigative reporter, Fletch is fearless and no matter what is happening, he's always cocky and confident, lest he blow his cover. But, as played by Chase, he's also an oaf who is constantly running into things. This combination creates a character who is both admirable and funny.

Chase's natural talents are simply a boost to Andrew Bergman's script. While Chase provides some great physical comedy to the film (there's something about him hitting the car with the tennis racquet which gets me every time), it's the dialogue which one really takes away from the film. I can't tell you how many lines from Fletch have become part of my daily vernacular. Today, I can't stop myself from saying things like "As far as you know." and "Excuse you?" in everyday conversation. Even more obscure lines like, "You aren't going to sing, are you, Sammy?" and "Ah, this (fill in the blank). I love the shape.", slip out from time-to-time. When one watches Fletch for the first time, it's the big things, such as Fletch's day-dream about playing for the Lakers, which stand out, but subsequent viewings reveal the hilarious throw-away lines.

Fletch is that rare film which we don't see nearly enough of: it's intelligent and clever, while still being laugh out loud funny. There's plenty of goofy, slapstick humor to impress the masses, while a smaller crowd will enjoy the subtlety of Chase's performance and the very sly dialogue.

Fletch enjoys the word Provo on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. This is one of those older movies which still looks like an older movie even on Blu-ray. The image is somewhat sharp and clear, but it is notably grainy at times. However, there are no overt defects from the source material. The colors look fine and the image is never too dark or bright. The level of detail is surprisingly good, but the image is a tad flat. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are average, although they do work well in crowd scenes. The most notable section of the film is the car chase scene, where we do get impressive stereo and surround effects.

The Fletch Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Just Charge it to the Underhills: Making and Remembering Fletch" (27 minutes) focuses way too much on the guy who made the featurette. Beyond that, we get interviews with the writer and producers, who give a general discussion of how the book was adapted. While Chase is noticeably absent here, Tim Matheson and Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, amongst some other cast members talk about their work on the film. "From John Cocktoastin to Harry S. Truman: The Disguises" (5 minutes) is a brief discussion of the various personas which Fletch takes on in the movie. "Favorite Fletch Moments" (3 minutes) is simply a very condensed version of the film. The final extra is the film's THEATRICAL TRAILER.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long