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An undercover newspaper columnist with a penchant for donning various diguises and identities to get a story is on the trail of drug ring.
For more about Fletch and the Fletch Blu-ray release, see Fletch Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 19, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Michael Ritchie
Writers: Jerry Belson, Andrew Bergman, Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Chevy Chase, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Tim Matheson, Joe Don Baker, Richard Libertini, Geena Davis
» See full cast & crew
Fletch Blu-ray Review
Still hilarious after twenty-four years...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 19, 2009
My father was never the sort of guy who enjoyed watching the latest television dramas or award-winning films -- a remote, a football game, and a nap were always his idea of a relaxing afternoon in front of the TV. Still, there are a few shows and movies I recall watching with him as a child: classics like Cheers, The Cosby Show, the Naked Gun flicks, A Christmas Story, the Police Academy series and, as luck would have it, Fletch. Not only did each one give me an opportunity to share laughs and pretzels with my father in his overstuffed corduroy recliner, it introduced me to a slew of comedies that would continue to hold a special place in my heart for years to come. But lest I get lost in nostalgia for the next seven paragraphs, allow me to cut to the chase. Fletch may not be the timeless gem that has long inhabited my fond memories, it may not pack the same punch it did two decades ago, it may not even hold up as well as Chase apologists would have you believe, but, as I discovered this week, revisiting director Michael Ritchie's tongue-in-cheek romp was the comedy equivalent of coming home.
Based on a series of mystery novels by Gregory McDonald, Fletch follows the misadventures of Irwin Fletcher (Chevy Chase), a quick-witted investigative reporter who gains notoriety with several scathing exposÚs published under the name Jane Doe. Going undercover as a homeless man to root out drug traffickers in Los Angeles, the all-too-clever writer is approached by a millionaire (Tim Matheson) offering a chunk of change to anyone willing to kill him before his cancer leads to an untimely and agonizing death. Suspicious from the start, Fletch hits the streets and works a variety of angles, eventually uncovering a link between the terminally-ill stranger, his cash, a stretch of lucrative real estate, and a corruption plot involving the chief of police (Joe Don Baker). With the help of his research assistant Larry (Geena Davis) and his newspaper editor Frank Walker (the indomitable Richard Libertini), Fletch shuffles through an endless assortment of disguises, cozies up to the millionaire's wife (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), and pursues the truth at all cost.
Easily screenwriter Andrew Bergman's finest work, Fletch gives Chase the chance to walk the same fine line between arrogance and charm that made him such a bankable star in the '80s. He plows through costumes, hairpieces, and oddball props with the fervent enthusiasm of a kid digging through his parents' cluttered closet. His delivery is sharp and precise at all times; he never allows his character's smarmy attitude to overwhelm Ritchie's sight gags or undermine the light-footed talents of his supporting cast. Instead, he tackles each line and flashes his every expression with a burning desire to endear himself to anyone watching. Even his deadpan narration -- a tried-and-true risk that could have been a total disaster -- adds another dimension to every fit of whimsy that bounds and bounces across the screen. The story itself has to occasionally slam on its brakes to unload several minutes of all-too-necessary exposition, but Chase manages to fuse his character's misgivings and behavior with the plot in such a way that he retains Ritchie's momentum even when the director is forced to slow the film down.
Sure, a few jokes fall flat, some pop culture references lack context, and the duh-dump-tiss nature of several punchlines hasn't aged as well as I had hoped, but Fletch strikes me as the sort of definitive time-capsule comedy that has the ability to win over modern filmfans who've never partaken of its well-seasoned goods. And while Ritchie's take on McDonald's popular protagonist will never sit perfectly well with purists, Chase and company have nevertheless created something fresh and funny. In the end, newcomers should give it a shot, casual fans should pay it another visit, and diehards should add it to their collection (regardless of how disappointing its AV presentation may be).
Fletch Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented with the same, troubled 1080p/VC-1 transfer that graced the 2008 HD DVD, Fletch could certainly use a more thorough and extensive restoration. Not only is the image burdened with technical issues like overbearing edge enhancement, faint blocking, and occasionally poor texture definition, it has to contend with a worn-and-torn source afflicted with minor print damage and contrast wavering. Unfortunately, it all seems to conspire to flatten the picture, robbing entire sequences of the depth of field and dimensionality they deserve. Detail is inconsistent as well: establishing shots and close-ups constantly have to deal with softness inherent to the original print and an at-times unsightly application of noise reduction. There are moments when it appears as if the lens has been smeared... still others where pixelation disrupts the integrity of the image. Thankfully, the transfer is significantly more attractive than previous DVD releases of the film. Overall clarity is more revealing, blacks are fairly well-resolved, and skintones are natural. The image is also more reliable than its ever been before: excluding instances of the aforementioned problems, I was generally pleased with the stability and vibrancy of this average presentation.
Fletch Blu-ray, Audio Quality
To my dismay, Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track doesn't fare much better. The mix offers fans a substantial improvement over its standard DVD counterparts, but struggles with dialogue clarity, effects prioritization, and scene-to-scene normalization. While the film's aging soundtrack receives a comparable boost in quality and rekindled LFE support adds a welcome sense of heft to the proceedings, rear speaker activity is sadly limited to the most obvious action-oriented sequences and the soundfield is flat and uninvolving. Pinched quickly emerges as the operative word to describe the track: voices sometimes sound as if they've been wedged into the center channel, musical lyrics and instrumentation are too loose, and dynamics are thin and squishy. It's easy to forgive a twenty-four year old film for such shortcomings, but it doesn't change the fact that they contribute to a mediocre lossless audio track. Ah well, as I alluded to before, it's probably going to be a long time (if ever) before we see a release of Fletch that looks or sounds better than this decent but unremarkable AV presentation.
Fletch Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Ugh. Fletch arrives on Blu-ray with the same annoying trio of standard definition featurettes that graced Universal's 2008 HD DVD release. Making and Remembering Fletch (27 minutes) is a terribly unamusing reflection piece (that doesn't involve any of the film's lead actors), The Disguises (6 minutes) is little more than an extended interview with makeup artist Ken Chase, and Famous Moments (3 minutes) is a montage of lines from the film. Do yourself a favor and skip this bland supplemental package altogether.
Fletch Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sorry, but I can't help but recommend Fletch to everyone reading this review. Considering how unlikely we are to see an expensive AV overhaul of the film anytime in the foreseeable future, this is a disc that belongs on any classic comedy fan's shelves. Just be warned: its video transfer is riddled with problems, its DTS-HD Master Audio track is underwhelming, and its small supplemental package is a waste of time. While I wish I had better news to report, anyone capable of properly adjusting their critical expectations should take this rare opportunity to revisit an old favorite.
Fletch: Other Editions
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Fletch Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Fletch and Bruce Almighty Heading to Blu-ray - March 23, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has revealed that they will bring the comedies 'Fletch' and 'Bruce Almighty' to Blu-ray on June 2nd. Technical specs have not been announced at this time, but you can expect to see 1080p ...
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