Holmes and Watson
Holmes & Watson isn’t very good. Neither, almost more surprisingly, is it completely terrible. The majority of its success derives from the clear fun that Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are having with Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation.
Written and directed by Etan Cohen (one of the masterminds behind the glorious Tropic Thunder), this silly sleuth film seems to exist entirely so that the line “No shit, Sherlock” can be uttered diegetically.
There are worse things to hang a deerstalker cap upon. Despite the overt zaniness, the storyline manages to be a bit of a decent caper, surely no less forced than the Guy Ritchie variants of the story that the film mostly apes. What’s strange is that these references make the movie feel doubly a period piece. The production was originally supposed to come out in the 2000s, with Ferrell as the sidekick to Sacha Baron Cohen. Its long delay makes a parody of the 2009 Robert Downey, Jr. vehicle feel very out of time.
Nonetheless, there’s plenty of amusement on display. Rebecca Hall is rambunctious with Reilly as a fellow doctor, while the character direction “raised by feral cats” gives Lauren Lapkus plenty to paw. Ralph Fiennes, Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Hugh Laurie and Kelly Macdonald make up a stellar ensemble cast, each providing greater texture (and some authentic British accents) to elevate the comedy.
The whole thing could easily have felt like a dreary, 12:55 AM SNL sketch. (Watch Will and John yell at each other in period clothes!). To Cohen’s credit, he works in a well-balanced storyline that serves as a framework upon which the two stars are allowed to be downright silly.
The score by Mark Mothersbaugh is suitably soothing, but the musical number (!) written by Alan Menken (!!!) with lyrics by Glenn Slater, two titanic Tony winners, is the wonderful jewel within the crown of the piece. If a silly Sherlock were ever to be brought to Broadway, this is the tuneful bit of awesomesauce that will surely lubricate its way.
From run-on onanism jokes through to ribald references to Ghost, one cannot help but laugh at many of the idiosyncratic moments. Sherlock Holmes has always been ripe for parody, and given the three decades since Without a Clue came out, it seems perfectly fine to have a bit of fun once again.
Holmes & Watson is a perfectly fine addition to holiday film fare, a trifle that’s sweet and sugary and surely not something you’d like every day, but worthy as a bit of a mental vacation from some of the more dour, childish or kinetic films out there this season. With Ferrell and Reilly bringing their exceptional chemistry to this boisterous bromance, one is satisfied with this perfectly average bit of comedic fluff. It may not rise to the level of a classic telling of the tale, but its intention is to entertain, and that, in dribs and drabs, this Sherlock surely does.
Great review. One point, the director’s name is Etan; not Ethan.
Typo fixed, thanks.