Holmes & Watson is easily the best film made in 2018. Ah, ok, you’ve caught me in a lie. It is, in fact, one of the biggest flops of the year. It’s absolutely no wonder that the press weren’t given a sneak peek of the movie before its release because it would have been akin to throwing a defenceless, bleating lamb to a pack of ravenous, salivating wolves. It’s elementary, my dear viewers; this purportedly humorous – and I use that word very loosely – take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic mysteries, featuring observant fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick John Watson, is a load of tosh. Holmes & Watson is a proverbial slap in the face for deep-dyed fans of the original stories. It was a real struggle to reach the end.
Written and directed by Get Hard’s Etan Cohen (not to be confused with Ethan Coen), this tepid buddy comedy-mystery is held back by some very basic slapstick – like armpit-fart-noise basic – and consistently poor sexual innuendo, amongst other horrors. Will Ferrell (as Holmes) and John C. Reilly (as Watson) aren’t given the right environment to accomplish the chemistry there’re usually capable of together, such as in Step Brothers and Talladega Nights. Both usually pretty darned hilarious, these proficient comedic actors are squandered on a poorly written script and piecemeal storytelling. And the talents of other cast members – including Kelly Macdonald as Mrs. Hudson, Rebecca Hall as Dr. Grace Hart, Lauren Lapkus as Millie, Ralph Fiennes as Professor Moriarty, Steve Coogan as Gustav Klinker, Hugh Laurie as Mycroft, Pam Ferris as Queen Victoria and Rob Brydon as Inspector Lestrade – are equally wasted.
The story kicks off in London, 1881, as a downcast Watson meets and befriends Holmes, the most renowned detective in the world. Watson becomes his assistant and the pair soon move in together to become the ultimate crime-solving duo. Years later, they attend the trial of Holmes’ old enemy, Professor Moriarty, concluding that the man present is an impostor and that the real Moriarty is on his way to the United States. Holmes later attends a party held in his honour by Queen Victoria, where a corpse makes an appearance in a cake. With the monarch’s life in peril, a new case is regrettably born.
Holmes & Watson has its funny moments, like when Holmes announces that the impostor can’t have committed the murders he is accused of due to hand tremors caused by excessive masturbation. Holmes proves his point after suggesting that the man tries to pour his own tea. Chortle. However, the gags are mostly cheap and tacky, and the film’s lethargy prevents it from reaching the humorous heights of the recent Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. versions – which weren’t altogether that side-splitting themselves.
Cohen makes so many mistakes that this shouldn’t really be called a comedy film, if truth be told. One of the most egregious is his painfully inconsistent and often anachronistic take on Victorian London. Nonetheless, we can probably put that down to a rib-elbowing, jocular attempt at hilarity, including repeated attempts to mock the orange buffoon. Erm, I mean President Donald Trump. Cohen’s Victorian London is banal from start to finish, though, with scenes that could have been plucked straight from My Fair lady or Oliver. The rain stays mainly on this film throughout. Please sir, can I have no more?