Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Etan Cohen
Stars: Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, Rebecca Hall, Kelly Macdonald, Pam Ferris, Ralph Fiennes, Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Hugh Laurie, Noah Jupe, Lauren Lapkus, Michael Culkin.
My list of the worst films of 2018 has just had a late addition with Holmes & Watson, an execrable and terribly unfunny piece of nonsense that will have Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spinning in his grave. Conan Doyle’s estate gave permission for the filmmakers to use the famous characters, but in hindsight they should sue!
This dire comedy about the world’s greatest detective and his devoted assistant Dr John Watson reunites Will Ferrell and John C Reilly, six years after their last pairing in Step Brothers. But what worked back them misfires miserably here. This is a clumsy and misguided attempt to milk the iconic 19th century sleuth for some cheap laughs, but very little of it actually works. At least films like 1988’s Without A Clue and 1975’s The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (with the late Gene Wilder) were affectionate in their piss takes on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous creation and the mythology of the character.
This stupid and brain-dead farce somehow links a plot by Moriarty (a wasted and underused Ralph Fiennes) to discredit Holmes and kill Queen Victoria (who died in 1901) with a bomb during the launch and maiden voyage of the ill-fated Titanic (which sailed from Liverpool in 1912). Holmes is approached by Queen Victoria to discover who is behind a mysterious threat to kill the queen in just four days’ time. Is the notorious arch villain Moriarty behind the threat, or is there something else going on? Little of the lame and lazy plotting actually makes sense, and the whole thing is full of clunky anachronisms, flat and forced dialogue, and puerile toilet humour. And for no real good reason there is even a brief musical interlude with a song composed by the great Alan Menken (best known for his work on Disney musicals like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, etc) and Glenn Slater (who wrote the lyrics for the smash hit Broadway musical School Of Rock).
But then again what would one expect from writer/director Etan Cohen, who previously paired Ferrell with Kevin Hart (the unfunniest man working in movies at the moment) for the dire and lame prison comedy Get Hard. Cohen seems to be tone deaf when it comes to judging what is funny. Most of the attempts at humour here are laboured and fall flat, although some of the physical slapstick stuff as Holmes and Watson accidentally batter Queen Victoria (Pam Ferris) did elicit a couple of giggles. I must admit that the piss weak and brief parody of that famous pottery scene from Ghost, albeit staged during an autopsy here, did raise a knowing smirk.
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most filmed fictional characters in the history of cinema, but he deserves better than this nonsense! Even Ferrell and Reilly deserve better than this. The film probably would have been much better if their regular collaborator Adam McKay had directed it.
Ferrell plays Holmes as a narcissistic and bumbling idiot. His overplaying here is embarrassing, and it’s almost as if he knew he had to switch it up to eleven to try and save the film from dying. Reilly delivers some of the most unfunny lines but manages to do it with a straight face. The film wastes the talents of Fiennes who is given little to do as Holmes’ nemesis; while The Trip co-stars Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan play Inspector Lestrange and a one-armed tattoo artist respectively; and Hugh Laurie appears in a pointless cameo as Mycroft Holmes. Rebecca Hall is actually one of the few strong aspects of the film with her role as Dr Grace Hart, an American doctor who helps Holmes and Watson and who has some outspoken views on the differences in attitudes between America and England at the turn of the century.
Total rubbish from start to finish! Avoid!