Monday, May 28, 2007

A Retort to Reihan Salam

We try to stay somewhat on topic here at the Gazette, with insight into fantasy baseball & regular baseball, with the occasional tangent into the field of thoroughbred racing, because dammit, somebody's gotta do it. And though Teddy's on vacation, I'm sure he would agree that it's time for a very necessary digression--rebutting Reihan Salam's out of left field blasting of Fletch.

Slate happens to be a personal favorite for reading material on a daily basis, and while I can't say I fully agree with everything they write, it's often interesting, somewhat well argued, and fairly topical. In keeping with the spirit of this, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, Mr. Salam has decided to do a review and critique of the comedy classic Fletch, a mere 22 years after the movie was released. (It appears there was a collector's edition just released, which is funny enough in principle, but why Fletch and not, say, Howard the Duck?) Doing a movie review of Fletch this week is about as necessary as Paul Krugman writing a lengthy op-ed in the Sunday Times of the Teapot Dome Scandal.

Cutting to the meat of the critique, Mr. Salam's entire criticism of Fletch boils down to the following three arguments:

(1) Fletch is the first self-aware hipster. I will note that as a faux-hipster stripped of his title upon marriage, the other faux-hipsters and actual hipsters I know would be honored to have a coked up Chevy Chase as their model. Also, I'm not sure why this is bad, save for the general contempt of Williamsburg and the L train (which is often justifiable when it comes to ironic t-shirts and condescension regarding Broken Social Scene, just not with Fletch).

(2) Fletch fails miserably on jokes such as the myriad names, disguises ("Sugar, Mr. Poon?") and silly plots points, save for the Laker dream. I'm not really sure why torturing the Underhills and "using the whole first Doc?" doesn't qualify as actual comedy to the author, but hey, everyone's entitled to their opinion. I'm just not sure it merited a 3-page exegesis in the process.

(3) Fletch is a hypocrite because he hates the rich and hates the poor, and really only like the junkies on the beach (thus, in some respects, making him the first hipster). Ignoring the fact that Fletch is a straight-forward player who spends half the moving flirting with Geena Davis, only to callously dump her for Mrs. Stanwyk in the end...the relevance of this is befuddling me. Analyzing a screwball comedy with the vigor and intensity that one reserves for reviewing "Nashville" or "The Maltese Falcon" isn't just folly, it's funny in and of itself. I fail to see why a comedy has to make logical sense---it's not to be fully believed, for crissakes. The protagonist is a jackass, but a funny jackass. This makes it a bad movie how?

As a result of this insolent transgression of stupidity, I personally intend to incorporate a slew of Fletch references into the next TA, and prove single-handedly to Mr. Salam that Fletch is actually funny. Though judging from the article, this appears to be something of a lost cause.

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