Holmes & Watson. Directed by Etan Cohen. Starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Rating: 2 (out of 10)
Dear eight-pound, six-ounce, newborn baby Jesus, in your golden fleece diapers, please forgive everyone involved with Holmes & Watson for releasing their turd of a movie on your big day. Or any day, for that matter.
If you missed the Christmas Day arrival of Holmes & Watson on the big screen, consider yourself forgiven: the film wasn’t screened for critics and received scant promotion in advance of its release. Consider yourself lucky, too, because if you were planning on seeing the movie based on the kinds of Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly zingers that peppered Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, be assured that there are almost none to be had in this third pairing of the comic duo.
Ferrell’s Get Hard writer-director Etan Cohen does double duty again here, but fails to coax his two stars into any kind of comic rhythm. Credit the script, which is a clunky mix of ancient jokes, pratfalls and geriatric gags designed to distract us from the fact that there is no story here at all, just the lame and slightly sad sight of grown actors peeing themselves when they’re worried the laughs have run dry.
Sherlock Holmes has been done to death in recent years by the likes of Robert Downey Jr, Jonny Lee Miller, Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, an animated Johnny Depp, and Canada’s own Matt Frewer, to name a few. But this is not a “new spin” on an old character: here Holmes has been so stripped of any literary reference it’s a wonder they bothered with it at all.
Sherlock Holmes (Ferrell) and Dr. John Watson (Reilly) are pressed into service after a murder at Buckingham Palace. A calling card is left by the scheming Professor James Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes, what were you thinking?) who declares that he will kill the queen in four days’ time if the first murder goes unsolved.
Holmes alternates between genius and dum-dum. Watson is dissatisfied as Holmes’ sidekick, though the doctor’s offers of “heroin or cocaine?” seem to be his chief medical qualification and means of advancement. Neither actor looks like they’re having any fun, regardless of the calibre of the jokes.
In addition to Fiennes, given only a few lines, a standout supporting cast is criminally underused. “Lady doctor” Dr. Grace Hart (Rebecca Hall) and her mute companion Millicent (Lauren Lapkus) serve as love interests for the clueless sleuths. Rob Brydon (The Trip) plays the much-maligned Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade, and frequent collaborator Steve Coogan makes an appearance as a tattooist. Kelly McDonald plays Holmes’ horny housekeeper; Hugh Laurie plays Holmes’ smarter brother (and yes, we’ve seen that movie before, too).
The jokes rely heavily on anachronism (MAGA-inspired hats… in Victorian England! Duck-faced selfies with an antique camera!) and masturbation, which, to be fair, was believed to be the cause of many a Victorian-era affliction. This may be the first Sherlock film in which our literary wunderkind pees his pants, so there’s that.
It’s lazy, it’s unfunny and it’s a good thing critics didn’t get to review Holmes and Watson before the end of the year: Worst Movie of 2018? Elementary, my dear Watson.