Holmes & Watson

The studio didn’t screen this movie for the critics. That’s not usually a good sign, but with John C. Reilly/Will Ferrell movies, who can blame them? Their wacky racing comedy Talladega Nights was funny, but only scored 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Step Brothers — one of the funniest comedies ever — scored a low 55%. The studios figure they’ll make $100 mil without the critics trashing the film. It was a smart move. Even smarter after I dragged my wife to see it on opening day, which was Christmas, and we realized they were right not to. Now, that doesn’t mean we didn’t laugh a handful of times. When you throw 1,000 jokes out there, some of them are bound to land.

Writer/director Etan Cohen also did the intermittently humorous Get Hard (also with Ferrell), as well as the screenplays for Men in Black 3, Tropic Thunder, and the hugely overrated Idiocracy. He should have an easy time of things. Oliver Wood is giving him great cinematography, Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh provided the score, and James Habridger has solid production design…on top of having a funny duo that could satirize something that’s easy to humorously riff on. And things started promisingly. The picture starts with a title card quote that sounds rather important, until we see it came from Hannah Montana. We then learn that a young Sherlock Holmes dealt with bullies at school by…figuring out all the bad things they did and getting them expelled. And seeing a chubby Watson standing by his side is funny just because…we know he’s going to turn into John C. Reilly as an adult.

The first scene with them as adults has them running late for a court case, because Holmes can’t settle on the proper hat. All solid stuff, but as the movie goes on, it gets less funny. The writing is rather lazy, too. And that makes it even more frustrating when you see something funny. For example, when killer bees attack and are all over Watson, Holmes thinks putting a big, round diving mask over his head is the best course of action. It might have been, had bees not already been surrounding his face.

When they’re going into an autopsy and Holmes gets queasy, it’s one of the rare times a barf scene was funny. Mostly because it catches him mid sentence of “Ye of little faith,” and it’s followed by a parody of the romantic clay scene in Ghost. Sure, that would’ve played better decades ago when that movie was fresher, and there were ways the scene could’ve been better, but it still worked.

The cameos were all good.

Hugh Laurie as Holmes’ brother has a fun scene where they speak telepathically.

One of my comedic heroes, Steve Coogan, plays a one-armed tattoo artist in a fun scene. It’s a shame his British co-star Rob Dryden, in his many scenes in the film, is never given anything funny to do. He merely lectures Holmes for not properly doing his job.

There’s a quick “elephant man” cameo that nobody under 50 will get, but is excellent.

There’s also a Billy Zane cameo that’s great, although I’m not sure the year the Titanic set sail makes it work properly, since this film takes place in the late 1800s. And speaking of the time period, Cohen made a mistake by continuously throwing in contemporary pop culture references. After the red “Make England Great Again” hat, which was cute, they got old quick. What didn’t get old, was Watson constantly clamoring to be a “co-detective.”

Kelly MacDonald (Puzzle, Trainspotting), Rebecca Hall, and Lauren Lapkus (Orange is the New Black) are all fun when they’re on screen. The trailers gave away a few of the funnier moments Hall had, though.

Ralph Fiennes plays Moriarty, so he can add another villain to his resume (although he really didn’t do much for this film, other than grow a beard).

It’s weird because when I was watching this, I wanted it to be funnier. Yet as I sit here now thinking about it, things cracked me up. The guys going into the gym and the visuals there, the take on “drunk dialing.” Yet all that also makes me angrier that the rest of it wasn’t funnier.

The Broadway team of Alan Menken and Glenn Slater provided a hysterical musical number in the middle of the film that’s almost worth the price of admission.

Now, I’d give this another star if Coogan would’ve been in the movie as much as his partner Brydon. Instead, I’d like a detective to investigate this movie, and see how it could have some funny moments but end up ultimately being disappointing. The critics will tear this apart, yet they’ll praise Reilly in the other movie coming out soon with two last names — Stan and Ollie. Perhaps this is one of those years where an actor gets nominated for an Oscar and a Razzie.

This gets 2 stars out of 5.

 

 

 

 

 

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