Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been a well-known and beloved literary pair for over a century. Will Ferrell and Jenny favorite John C. Reilly have made many memorable comedies working as a pair under the direction of Adam McKay. Having the comedic pair play the consulting detective and his friend and partner seems like it could lead to rich results.
But McKay didn’t direct Holmes & Watson. That task fell to longtime screenwriter Etan Cohen. So, how did the movie turn out?
After a brief prologue showing how Holmes and Watson met as children at a boarding school, where Holmes learned after being bullied to shut off all his emotions and instead use the power of reason to solve crimes, we see the pair as adults running afoul of a trap that appears to have been set by Professor Moriarity (Ralph Fiennes), currently on trial for murder. Holmes (Ferrell) blusters and blunders his way through life, searching forever for the perfect hat, while somehow still coming across as a brilliant detective, albeit one who won’t share any of the glory with the long-suffering Watson (Reilly). When a threat to the life of the Queen comes into play, it is up to Holmes to find the killer before it is too late.
So, I found the movie to be painfully unfunny despite elements that could and should have been funny. For example, actress Kelly Macdonald plays a promiscuous, younger than generally depicted version of Holmes and Watson’s landlady Mrs. Hudson. Macdonald greatly exaggerates her Scottish accent to humorous effect while her steady stream of lovers are clearly famous men from history, many of whom shouldn’t exist in the Sherlock Holmes timeframe. But these sorts of jokes are just rushed through, the lovers more background bits for observant audience members that are never really identified by name outside the closing credits. And that is the sort of movie this is. Potentially good jokes are rushed through while painfully unfunny bits that show Holmes and Watson engaging in crude bathroom humor or inventing modern ideas are sledgehammer obvious and go on for far too long, well past the point of being actually funny.
As such, the audience is left with a movie where the best comedy may come from the mock 19th century social standards about where things like medicine and social justice were at the time. Holmes and Watson both discover love interests in the course of the movie, but that doesn’t seem to add up to much. There are some completely unsubtle bits of political comedy attacking the Trump Administration, a few bits of anachronisms, a lot of gross jokes, and the occasional celebrity cameo, and in the end, I just didn’t care for this one very much. Bad jokes went on for too long and potentially good jokes were cut off too quickly. 2 out of 10 atrocious English accents.