Sunday, 6 January 2019



On the one hand I'm swearing off obviously terrible films, but on the other I can't resist a Sherlock Holmes movie, even one that's clearly not of the top rank. Even one with Will Ferrell in the lead role. It's hardly a major journalistic scoop to reveal breathlessly that Holmes & Watson is terrible, that Ferrell is terrible and that neither the film nor the star are anywhere near funny enough for even a lunkheaded 90-minute throwaway Christmas release that everyone's too bloated, hungover or exhausted to be bothered with. What is odd is that away from the insufferable star turn there are odd isolated little crumbs of not-entirely-terribleness if you're prepared to look harder than the film really deserves.

It's the usual Baker Street set-up, except that Ferrell's Holmes is an egotistical idiot who mangles vowels and consonants alike with an atrocious (though presumably comedic) British accent, while Reilly's Watson is a dunderheaded cretin that makes Nigel Bruce's bumbling old buffoon look like the smart guy he's supposed to be (he's a long-serving Army doctor and published writer, for goodness' sake). Mrs Hudson, meanwhile, is an insatiable Scottish nymphomaniac forever at it with famous figures of history (Einstein, Houdini, Mark Twain) because...I don't know, jokes? Meanwhile Ralph Fiennes doesn't get the chance to do very much with what should be the plum role of Moriarty: the villainy is mostly in other hands.

There are numerous problems with Holmes & Watson. Firstly it's clearly pastiching the Guy Ritchie versions, right down to Mark Mothersbaugh's score, which is odd since the last one was a full seven years ago and there's no sign of a Part 3. Secondly, the plot, in which Moriarty intends to assassinate Queen Victoria on the Titanic (don't even ask) and thus destroy Holmes' reputation unless the great detective and his wannabe co-detective can follow the clues and stop him, would have certainly sufficed for a straight Holmes movie with a straight actor. And thirdly, and most crucially, it's just not funny, even by the standards of such Ferrell back catalogue numbers as Talladega Nights (Ferrell outfunnied by Sacha Baron Cohen, of all people, doing camp Frenchman from a 70s sitcom) and the Anchorman movies (period detail aside there's very little comedic meat; Harrison Ford, of all people, has the only decent line in Anchorman 2).

Sure, there are some moments, but they're nothing to do with the star turn: I liked the tabloid newspaper headlines that flit across the screen every so often, the inclusion of Musgrave should please Holmesians, and there are a couple of unbilled cameos from familiar British faces (one of which nicely parallels Guy Ritchie's casting of Stephen Fry as Mycroft in A Game Of Shadows). But it's nowhere near anything like close to enough. It's actually a tough call as to whether it's more or less funny than the legendarily terrible Peter Cook grotesquerie of The Hound Of The Baskervilles.


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