Synopsis: A humorous take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mysteries featuring Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.
Stars: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Ralph Fiennes, Rebecca Hall, Kelly Macdonald, Hugh Laurie, Pam Ferris, Lauren Lapkus, Rob Brydon
Director: Etan Cohen
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: It’s been a month since Thanksgiving but there’s a fresh turkey to be found at your local cinema. Sadly, there’s no wishbone to be had in this bird but if there had been, you’d likely use up your wish and go back in time to select another movie, any other movie, to see instead. Haven’t we had enough Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson yet? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic literary creations have already come to life in multiple well-made movies over the past eight decades and one highly regarded television series, not to mention we’ve already had one marginally liked comedic take with 1988’s Without a Clue. Yet the famed duo still provide fodder for further films and when they don’t have an ounce of brains in the planning you get a movie like Holmes & Watson.
A film sure to make Conan Doyle roll over in his grave, Holmes & Watson is a dum-dum comedy featuring Will Ferrell (The Campaign) and John C. Reilly (Carnage) hoping to recreate some of the magic they found in 2008 hit Step Brothers. While that movie was no brilliant fete of moviemaking, it looks like Lawrence of Arabia compared to this stinker. It seems like no one bothered to think through anything above and beyond the simple character constructs everyone already knows and then unfortunately let Ferrell and Reilly fill in the blanks. Left to their own devices, the duo entertain only themselves for a turgid 90 minutes. Adding in unnecessary modern references and a few Trump jokes for good measure not to mention an amazing amount of bad dubbing and numerous continuity errors and you have a movie that feels cobbled together from rejected remnants of better scripts.
Opening with the meeting and eventual friendship of a young Sherlock Holmes and John Watson when Holmes is dropped off and bullied at an elite boarding school, we jump forward to an established Holmes and Watson testifying at the trial of the recently captured Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel, looking pained in every one of his brief appearances onscreen). When Moriarty goes free and a threat with his evil touch is then made on the Queen (Pam Ferris, The Raven), Holmes and Watson jump into action with the assistance of an American doctor (Rebecca Hall, The BFG) who catches Watson’s eye. Also providing assistance is Kelly Macdonald (Goodbye Christopher Robin) as the housekeeper at Baker Street, Rob Brydon (Early Man) as Inspector Lestrade, and Hugh Laurie (Tomorrowland) as Holmes’ older brother.
Admittedly, I saw Holmes & Watson at the tail end of a long holiday weekend and sort of half dozed off around the 40-minute mark but was told by my movie-going companion all I missed was an appearance by Steve Coogan (Philomena) as a one-armed tattoo artist operating at a wrestling studio (because…of course). My sleepiness is also likely the reason I saw the movie was written and directed by Etan Cohen and for a brief moment was filled with fear that the Oscar winning director of No Country For Old Men had played a part in this…only to realize that was Ethan Cohen. The man captaining this sinking ship was Etan (no ‘h’) Cohen and he gave us the gems Men in Black III and Get Hard…more in line with what’s on screen.
With a cast this stacked you almost feel sorry they are ending 2018 with such a scarlet letter on their IMDb page but if there’s one good thing to come out of Holmes & Watson is that hopefully studios will think twice before giving Ferrell such a long leash in future movies. He’s a large reason the movie fails so spectacularly, halfheartedly hamming it up for the camera like he’s sleepwalking through the second to last sketch on a March episode of Saturday Night Live. He’s merely collecting a paycheck and dragging down a lot of better actors with him. Looking over his movies, he hasn’t made a legitimately good one in almost a decade, box office numbers aside. It’s time for the actor to take a step back and have a good talk with himself about what kind of actor he wants to be because he’s consistently turning up in trash.
At this very moment audiences find themselves with a plethora of solid movie choices available to them and to even consider plunking down your money for Holmes & Watson over far better fare like Roma, Mary Poppins Returns, If Beale Street Could Talk, or Ben is Back would be a real waste. Worse, you’d be rewarding the filmmakers and stars for their bad choices.