When the promo on the packaging says "Chevy Chase IS Fletch," it's an apt description. Chase's brand of laid-back, low-key, deadpan humor is a good match for the breezy, wisecracking character invented by best-selling novelist Gregory McDonald. In fact, Chase plays essentially the same character in almost all of his movies, and it either works or it doesn't.
In recent years, as Chase has gotten older, the routine has worn thin. But as investigative reporter Irwin Fletcher, Chase seems just right. Fletch is an extension of the police detective in "Foul Play," probably Chase's best film part and, along with Chase's persona on the old "Saturday Night Live" show, the prototype for his succeeding roles. In the hands of veteran director Michael Ritchie, "Fletch" is a consistently funny film, with Chase pretty much a one-man band of constant quips.
Fletch writes investigative reports for a big Los Angeles newspaper, using the pseudonym "Jane Doe" to protect his real identity. Indeed, Fletch changes his identity throughout the film in a variety of disguises as he chases down drug dealers and police corruption. Like most good comedy-mystery capers, this one takes its hero on a roller coaster ride of varied locations and colorful characters.
More so than the plot, it is the supporting cast that allows Chase the opportunity to play off them as the eternal wise guy, and a great supporting cast it is, too. There's Tim Matheson as a wealthy businessman who wants Fletch to murder him. There's Joe Don Baker as a tough chief of police who doesn't want Fletch messing in his own drug probes. And there's Dana Wheeler-Nicholson as the obligatory beautiful damsel in distress. Add in George Wendt as Big Sam, Geena Davis before she became a star, the great M. Emmet Walsh, Richard Libertini, Kenneth Mars, William Sanderson, and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing himself, and you have a group of players who make it easy for Chase to be funny.
The picture ratio is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen only, and Universal's color and image quality are excellent. Occasional outdoor shots in bright sunlight look a little faded, but otherwise the hues are natural and separation is clear-cut.
The Dolby Surround Stereo does not put a lot of action into the back channels, but then there's not a lot for the back channels to do, anyway. There is a refreshing minimum of violence in the film, and with the exception of one extended car chase and some essential background music, the rear speakers are used sparingly.
In addition to the movie, the DVD contains some production notes, filmmaker bios, and a theatrical trailer.
I've always liked "Fletch" and its successor, "Fletch Lives." They are among Chevy Chase's few comedies that stand the test of time. I enjoyed "Fletch" as much on DVD as I have enjoyed seeing it in several previous viewings. What's more, it is a surprisingly gentle comedy, with little to offend younger viewers but a couple of relatively harmless, off-color remarks; nothing that might be censored for network TV. Yet it works without resorting to offensiveness, something that other, more-recent comedies could learn from.
"Fletch" is an above-average entry in the humorous-suspense category, with Chase at the top of his form. It is not great film making, but it is fun.