Holmes & Watson and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Etan Cohen
Oh goody! Will Ferrell and John C Reilly are teaming up once again to make a silly comedy! That’s gonna be GREAT, right!? RIGHT!? Okay fine, they don’t have THE BEST track record out there, but I still don’t want to dismiss this out of hand! I mean… I probably SHOULD, considering how… not very good the trailer was, but those don’t always faithfully represent the full movie, and they wouldn’t just dump this right in the middle of a VERY busy time of the year just to die a quiet death, right!? Well I guess we’re gonna have to see if that’s the case, though for both of their sakes as box office draws, I hope they put quite a bit of effort into this one. Does this send up of Sherlock Holmes manage to capture the spirit of the books while also making a laugh out loud comedy, or is this a joke that’s way too late to the party and would have been an utter embarrassment even if it WAS timely? Let’s find out!!
Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) is somehow England’s greatest detective despite being an utter fool who makes obvious mistakes over and over again, but I guess he’s got a good hype man in his partner John Watson (John C Reilly) who seems to be keeping at least some of his worst tendencies in check while also pumping him up to the general public through his novels about their various crime solving adventures. However, this latest caper involving a murder at Buckingham Palace and the threat of death upon The Queen (Pam Ferris) if Sherlock doesn’t find the killer first is just the kind of mystery that will put his mind and their friendship through the ultimate test! Complicating matters is the fact that Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) is still at large but may have fled to the Americas as well as a new doctor in town Rose Hudson (Kelly MacDonald) as well as her… assistant I guess, Millie (Lauren Lapkus), who have both captured the hearts of our dynamic duo. Will Sherlock be able to crack the case before this mystery tears him AND his straining friendship with Watson apart at the seams? Will Watson finally get the nerve to demand more respect and an equal title as co-detective with Sherlock who is notoriously egotistical and not one to share the spotlight? Is it even possible for THE GREATEST DETECTIVE ALIVE to get to the bottom of how this utter fiasco made it into theaters!?
As pathetic as this may sound, I ACTUALLY expected this movie to be much better. Yeah, I’m an easy mark for Will Ferrell and John C Rilley, though for the life of me I don’t know why since Step Brothers is one of those movies so bad that I’ll probably write a dissertation on it one day (Nutsack on your Drumset: When Poe’s Law Turns into a Never Ending Nightmare), but both of them have each had some AMAZING films in their day and Ricky Bobby still holds up pretty well as a collaborative effort! You’d THINK that by this point both of them would have enough integrity to NOT release yet another movie this bad, but I guess when you’re jumping on a fad five years too late it’s hardly a surprise. Not only was this a PERFECT opportunity to do a proper Sherlock Holmes send up, but there’s some GENUINE talent on display with both Ferrell and Rilley being decent in the roles when the film allows them to be, but sadly the film is ultimately sabotaged by its own immaturity; assuming that audiences want to see puke jokes and constant anachronistic references rather than anything witty or insightful. Maybe they’re and audiences will flock to this like they often do to Ferrell’s lesser films (*cough* Daddy’s Home 2 *cough*), but being able to spin garbage into box office success doesn’t make the utter tedium of ACTUALLY sitting through it any less miserable.
As is often the case with a bad comedy, the big problem is one that’s easy enough to sum up but isn’t going to be all that universal. The movie is just not funny. It’s got a few bright spots here and there (it takes very little for me to enjoy a song and dance number), but every joke feels like the first one they thought of before writing it in the script or the fifth joke they came up with while just messing around on set. There’s not tension to the story or control over the material. It’s all loosey-goosey from the word go with no real semblance of structure or even a compelling mystery to hang the story on. SIGNIFICANT plot points that should have been brought up at the very beginning of the movie (like say where a pivotal and VERY public character plans to be at the climax of the film) is instead held back and left as some sort of “surprise” to get MAYBE a cheap laugh if there’s even a joke there at all. It’s just utter nonsense and not the kind that can be enjoyed in a surrealistic sense like the Anchorman movies! It’s just the laziest and cheapest kind of eww jokes and LOUD NOISES shtick that was played out decades ago, reinvented by Tim & Eric, and then pounded back into the dirt by movies like this.
It’s also just straight up terrible at being a Sherlock Holmes riff, and that’s from someone who doesn’t even know that much about the guy. I haven’t seen ANY Sherlock Holmes movie (not even the Robert Downey Jr ones) and I’ve only gotten through season three of Sherlock, but I do like the idea of the character and I’ve certainly seen House MD enough times (you bastards dragged Hugh Laurie into this!?) to make up for at least some of my lapses in Sherlock Holmes lore. And the thing is, even for someone like ME who is probably somewhat representative of most people who are going to see this (at least as far as familiarity and attachment to Holmes) can point out how little they gave a crap about the source material. Sure they remembered that he lives at 221B Baker Street and that Moriarty is THE BAD GUYTM, but everything else feels like rejected ideas from other Will Ferrell movie. Instead of putting Irene Adler in here (I know she’s not a big character in the books, but it’s STILL something everyone knows about them!) they have Lauren Lapkus pretending to be a cat woman or something and I’m about halfway certain they just copied and pasted Kristen Wiig’s part from Anchorman 2 into this. Moriarty, despite being in this quite a bit, doesn’t actually have anything to do with the plot itself which falls upon another character that is indeed from the Holmes books but is VERY much changed here seemingly for no reason other than… I don’t know, shock value? To call it an overextended SNL skit is being a tad bit unfair to SNL who at least sometimes knows when to stop when they’re ahead, but it’s one of those cases where it feels like no one on set has actually read any of the books or have any affection for them which means that there’s no frame of reference for any real satire to come from. After all, how can you make incisive comments about something that you go out of your way to not understand?
The worst part of all of this though is that it just didn’t have to be this bad, and I know I’m once again showing my utter foolishness here, but we KNOW these two can act and the premise is ripe for some ACTUAL biting satire! The jokes about Holmes over analyzing situations in slow motions are fine even if that joke has already been done to death elsewhere, and OCCASIONALLY they’ll come up with a clever way of using Holmes’s brilliance for a joke like how he can beat Watson at any game before they even play it, but the writing is just not there for them to shine and the two of them seem more than willing to make utter fools of themselves for the benefit of absolutely no one. Even Sherlock which is somewhat of a straightforward (if modernized) adaptation of the source material is SO much funnier than anything in this. There’s a brief gag in the trailer about how Holmes is a master of disguise which is… well it’s actually pretty decent as far as the jokes in this movie goes, but compare it to the restaurant gag in the first episode of series three of Sherlock and there’s no comparison! That one is well timed, it has genuine wit to it, and it ACTUALLY serves a purpose of having Watson learn that Holmes is still alive (SPOILER ALERT!) and also shows how fundamentally Holmes misunderstands his relationship with Watson. Why is he dressing up in here!? It’s not like he’s even doing anything that would REQUIRE a costume, and while John C Reilly somewhat manages to sell the gag, it just feels like yet another pointless moment in a sea of inanity! I firmly believe that both of these guys are capable of playing these characters, particularly John C Reilly who would be a great Watson even in a more serious Holmes movie, but I guess these two just bring out the worst in each other despite how fun their chemistry can be and how spectacularly they debuted as comedy duo in Ricky Bobby.
Despite everything I’ve said so far, I actually don’t hate this movie. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is absolutely terrible, but I reserve HATE for comedies that are outright despicable which this film is not. I mean I GUESS you could get somewhat offended by how poorly they use their premise here, but it’s not like Fist Fight or Daddy’s Home 2 where their mere existence is a blight on humanity. This is just another terrible comedy to add to the pile and one more peg that both of these very talented comedians are knocked down which is disappointing to be sure but not something to get worked up over. If you haven’t been able to deduce it by now (nyuk-nyuk-nyuk), I do not recommend you go and see this movie in the theaters. That would be the case ANY time of the year, but ESPECIALLY right now!? You’re spoiled for choice! You’re not like ME who goes out looking for this crap! Spend your money on something worthwhile like the new Spider-Man movie or Bumblebee! Both understand their source material a lot more than this one and are SO much funnier to boot! Heck, just rewatch Sherlock or that show Elementary if you need a Holmes fix for whatever reason! Will Ferrell doesn’t have to have a successful film EVERY Christmas, right!?