Holmes & Watson is the latest film to team up actors Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights). It is a comedic story featuring the characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the movie, the duo are given four days to solve a mystery before the Queen will be murdered by Holmes’s nemesis, Professor Moriarty.
At the heart of the film is a legitimate Doyle-style mystery that may have been compelling on its own. The twists are there, and while the story definitely follows the formula typical of any Sherlock Holmes adventure, a few of the turns are somewhat unexpected. Unfortunately, the movie seems to care very little about this story, opting to focus on entertaining the audience through dumb humor rather than a legitimately enjoyable whodunit mystery.
The biggest issue with this film is that it is thoroughly excessive. Almost everything in this movie outstayed its welcome. There were a handful of jokes that were surprisingly quite funny that became unfunny because the scenes go on for much longer than they should have. For example, there is one scene in which Holmes and Watson are trying to hide a body. After a minute or so, the humor becomes redundant and the scene as a whole annoying. This happens multiple times over the course of the film.
A majority of the movie’s humor falls into the lowbrow category, whether slapstick or raunchy. The slapstick comedy could have been funny, as there are some somewhat creative setups (one includes a colony of killer bees), but these were among the scenes most likely to become annoyingly long. On the other hand, the raunchy humor is completely unsuccessful. The film is limited by its PG-13 rating, so none of the raunchiness has enough bite to truly be funny. Instead, the script seems to have a fascination with bodily humor, especially masturbation jokes, which just weren’t that funny.
The movie did make some attempts at more ambitious and intelligent humor, but it largely failed at doing so too. A few scenes poke fun at President Trump and American democracy. Regardless of your political beliefs, these scenes are unlikely to be funny. They don’t have any real impact, feeling whiny and annoying rather than clever. Other aspects of society at which the film pokes fun include gun usage, selfies, and pay-per-view television, nearly all of the jokes about which fall flat.
There are also some blatant anachronisms throughout the movie. Some of these are meant for comedic purposes and just don’t work. For example, the characters say “Hey girl!” while taking a “self-photograph”. It isn’t funny, it just induces eye rolls. The soundtrack is extremely anachronistic. Much of the score has an electronic feel to it. More modern songs are used too. One particularly frustrating scene features “Unchained Melody”. It seems to want to be something more, but isn’t.
The film has a massive cast, but sadly, they are all put to waste with such a lackluster script. Ferrell and Reilly are known for their chemistry. They’re no Abbott and Costello, but the two of them are known for being a comedic duo that bounces off of each other. Why place them together in a script that is centered around the distance forming between the two characters? There simply aren’t enough scenes in which there is playful banter between them, and as such, the actors aren’t given enough room to work. The supporting cast is entirely underused. Ralph Fiennes is a phenomenal actor, but the role to which he was relegated is horrible. Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are another great comedic duo, but they never appear on screen together. Brydon is probably the best part of the movie, but he could have been used more extensively.
For a comedy, the movie has some solid execution, but it is rendered useless by the attempts to be funny. The production design is very good, although its attempts at periodization are defeated by the many anachronistic jokes. The costumes are solid too, although some of the attempts at using the costumes for comedy, such as a fez that says “Make England Great Again”, were cheap. The cinematography is also strong during the scenes in which the audience enters the protagonist’s mind. The animation during these scenes is really cool. However, there are only two or three instances of this. Having more of this type of scene definitely would have helped the movie as a whole.
Overall, Holmes & Watson is a mess of a film. There is a lot of potential, but since it is so unfunny, it falls apart.
Holmes & Watson is now in theaters.