So, I think I’m finally at the end of my list of outstanding reviews. It feels like an absolute age since I saw this film so it’s a relief to be finally writing it up. And I was pretty excited about seeing this one. I mean, there was a time when seeing the names Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly on a movie poster would bring nothing but glee. So, the idea that they were coming together to reinvent Sherlock Holmes, another of my major loves, was perfect for me. Let’s be honest, since Stephen Moffat came along, the baker street detective has started to be taken a bit too seriously. The fan girls want him dark, broody, and sexy. Despite the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is a far cry from the man Arthur Conan Doyle came to despise. What we really needed was for someone to come along and take him down a peg or two. But then Holmes and Watson came along. Complete with rescheduled release dates and Sony refusing to screen the film for critics. It quickly became clear that this wasn’t going to be the film we wanted it to be.
On the outside, Holmes and Watson seemed like a film with enormous potential. It starred the hilarious duo of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as one of literature’s greatest partnership, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Sherlock is, as usual, a much celebrated figure in London society. Dr Watson, far from being his friend, is just an annoyance that he puts up with. Holmes gets all the credit whilst Watson feels like he’s in the shadows. But the pair must come together to prevent Queen Victoria being murdered by a mystery assailant. Holmes is convinced that the threat is related to his nemesis Moriarty but, unfortunately, Moriarty was publicly sentenced to death on days before. When all the leads end up dead, Holmes starts to look a little closer to home to find his would-be murderer. Can the great Sherlock once again crack the case?
Sherlock Holmes, as I mention every time I talk about the character, is the most portrayed human literary character. More actors have played the great detective in film and television than any other mortal character. So, I guess there are two schools of thought: either we never need to see him again or we are ready to see a different version. And, when Holmes and Watson was first announced, it seemed like Will Ferrell could bring something delicious to the role. The man who has made countless and reliable slapstick comedies. Yes, lately we’ve been having to admit he’s lost his way somewhat but pair him with Reilly and everything should be okay, right?
Well, it doesn’t take a man in a deerstalker to work out that it wasn’t. To say that Holmes and Watson is a misfire is a massive understatement. It’s a downright terrible film made worse by the fact it was so sure of itself. The thing that made me so angry about this film was how easy it assumed it would be. That all they needed to do was put Ferrell and Reilly to work and it was a sure thing. And what’s with the ridiculous parody of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes? Talk about late to the party. It’s a send-up that neither works nor makes any sense. And worst of all? It’s not even funny. Whoever called this film a comedy really needs to talk to trading standards or something. I’m not sure there is one joke in this entire film that works. The gags are desperate and childish. It’s too much but, really, not enough.
What Holmes and Watson really teaches us, is that maybe its time for Ferrell to try something different. The man who created Anchorman has been slowly proving that his brand of comedy just isn’t what Hollywood is looking for right now. It’s certainly not looking for a messy re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes with a smattering of topical jokes, bad slapstick, and, infantile gags. This film relied on the reputation of its stars to get anywhere but it knew it had nothing to offer. I just don’t understand who ever decided this was a good idea. I don’t understand why Ralph Fiennes decided it was a good idea. I just don’t understand anything anymore. Thinking about this film again just makes me sad.