Holmes & Watson Jun 19, 2019 20:43:41 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jun 19, 2019 20:43:41 GMT -5
Holmes & Watson (2018)
Directed by: Etan Cohen
Directed by: Etan Cohen
Dr. Watson (John C. Reilly, left) attempts to take a "self photograph" with the Queen (Pam Ferris) and Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) in Holmes & Watson.
In nearly 10 years of reviewing movies, I've given a "half-star" rating (out of four) 12 times. I see a lot of critics, even ones I like, throw the rating around at run-of-the-mill bad movies so much that I feel it's become deluded. It's a rating I feel is reserved for the most loathsome, irredeemable movies; not one dolled out for a film I find just awful, but reprehensible in quality. One that's a failure on all cylinders and ones still left to be discovered. Holmes & Watson marks my 13th half-star rating, and I now have personal reasons to call that number particularly unlucky.
The very idea of a Sherlock Holmes/John Watson comedy starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as the famous characters prompts at least some intrigue. After all, these are two comics who have shown that, when on the top of their games, they make films like Step Brothers and Talladega Nights that are about as amusing and eminently quotable as comedies can be. However, there's a select few comics that can simply liven up a concept with their own schtick, meaning they can go off-script and make something out of very little. The laughs in Holmes & Watson start and stop at the very idea, and any hope of this project succeeding on any level is almost effectively discarded in the opening minutes when a bully grabs a young Sherlock Holmes' pet turtle and hurl him in the air as if he's Brett Favre. That's the tone this film wants to set.
What semblance of a story there is revolves around Holmes (Ferrell) and Dr. Watson (Reilly) trying to stop a plot by Professor Moriarity (Ralph Fiennes in a role that archival footage of his past performances could've easily substituted) to murder Queen Victoria (Pam Ferris). In the meantime, Holmes tries to come to grips with being a person who has rejected all emotional impulses in favor of logical ones, which means devaluing people, including his closest confidant. Watson falls for Dr. Grace Hart (the lovely Rebecca Hall, who too deserves better), who is disgusted by the way Holmes treats his so-called friend and repeatedly urges Watson to demand more respect from him. Holmes, on the other hand, is entranced by the mute and feral Millie (Lauren Lapkus).
This thin plot should merit a vast playground of sorts for Ferrell and Reilly to litter with their trademark absurdity and boundless comic energy. Instead, it's as if writer/director Etan Cohen — whose last film, Get Hard, was an utter disaster, so the last thing he should want to do is take unnecessary chances — and the filmmakers thought reuniting Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly was all it would take for the concept at hand to succeed. This reeks of a project made with a first draft screenplay, for a great deal of it involves Holmes and Watson standing around, reciting droning and incoherent period-talk in search of timing and wit.
The bulk of the film's humor relies on cheap anachronisms, such as Watson taking a "self-photograph" of him, Holmes, and the Queen, or the titular pair not so subtly critiquing President Trump by skeptically speaking about America's electoral college system. The tone unevenly transitions between these cutesy attempts at modernizing the material and tired slapstick, all of which fall flatter than a tuba-player with untied shoelaces on a flight of stairs. We have jokes ranging from "Make England Great Again" hats, to Watson lactating and preceding his own unconsciousness with a series of bizarre and lackluster physical gags. There's nor blueprint for what exactly about the famous detective duo is being satirized. Ferrell and Reilly have never been less amusing, especially when we've seen them work together to create films that look like comedy's finest works by comparison.
Ferrell has been on a downward trajectory for sometime, with a swollen ego the only reason that could've compelled him to make films as dreadful as Daddy's Home and the HBO documentary Ferrell Takes the Field. Reilly, however, just gave one of his most memorable performances as comic legend Oliver Hardy in Stan & Ollie. Tis a pity to marry its theatrical release with something as odious as this.
Few fictional characters have been committed to film as much as Sherlock Holmes, most notably the recent Robert Downey, Jr. movies, Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch's BBC series Sherlock, the Michael Caine vehicle Without a Clue, among dozens of others. Having not seen many of those, I can't make an adequate judgement, but I'd go out on a limb and say few have been this insufferable.
Sometimes, a film is so disgraceful it demands all the ignominy its viewers can healthily muster. Other times, a film is so unequivocally abysmal and lazy that it should provoke little else besides a sneer and prompt dismissal. Use your energy wisely on this abject trainwreck.
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Ralph Fiennes, Rebecca Hall, Pam Ferris, Lauren Lapkus, Steve Coogan, and Hugh Laurie. Directed by: Etan Cohen.