Holmes and Watson: A Cinematic Disgrace

SHERLOCK HOLMES (Will Ferrell) and WATSON (John C. Reilly) in Columbia Pictures' HOLMES AND WATSON.

Holmes and Watson is a brutal cinematic disgrace and a stain to the legacy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary detective, Sherlock Holmes.

The film starts in 1867 when young Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) first attends boarding school. Major teasing results in the young boy becoming a detective and getting all but the future Dr. John Watson (John C. Reilly) expelled from the school.  The opening credits flash forward by way of newspaper articles to present day 1892 when Professor James Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) is on trial for crimes.  Only it’s an imposter and the real one is still at large.  Inspector Lestrad (Rob Brydon) is beyond pissed at Sherlock.

At a surprise birthday party being held at Buckingham Place, Queen Victoria (Pam Ferris) hires the services of Holmes and Watson when a witness turns up dead in the traditional surprise cake.  To quote Winnie the Pooh here: Oh, bother!  The duo do the best with their aide, Mrs. Martha Hudson (Kelly Macdonald, in a role that is very much the opposite of stellar work in Puzzle).  Hell, Sherlock’s own brother, Mycroft (Hugh Laurie), feels like a wasted talent.

At the London Morgue, enter Dr. Grace Hart (Rebeccca Hall) of Boston and her aid, Millicent (Lauren Lapkus).  Because McKay is a producer, don’t be surprised to see a number of political jokes show up.  In this case, there are jokes about equal pay for women and the Trump Administration–the latter while discussing who can hold the title of President. This is only the least of it!  An earlier hat montage displays “Make England Great Again.”  There’s a joke about the criminal justice system in America with juries made of white male property owners.

That the film climaxes with a bomb being placed on the Titanic shows the lack of humor in the screenplay.  Over 1,500 people died on the Titanic and the film takes place some 20 years before.  It’s beyond being worse than being a cheap shot.  To even think that puppets having sex in The Happytime Murders was a crime against cinema, what they do in the film’s climactic third act is an epic disgrace in its own right.  Lo and behold, Billy Zane shows up for a cameo as the ship sets sail years before construction began in 1908.  That’s right.  It’s 1892 but they think audiences are stupid enough to fall for this shit.  We already knew we would be in for a long ride when a quote from Hannah Montana season 2, episode 4 about logic appeared at the start of the film.

Never mind who allowed this film to get made, let alone finance it.  All we can do is bare witness to some of the worst performances ever from Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.  Who would have ever thought that 2018 would end with both the best and worst performances from Reilly?  More on that later but Ferrell and Reilly have done some great stuff together when directed by Adam McKay.  Unfortunately, McKay’s not the one behind the camera.  No, that title belongs to Etan Coen, who also wrote this monstrosity of a mess.  That’s right.  The guy who was an unfortunate prophet in writing Idiocracy is the guy who wrote and directed this huge pile of, you get the idea.

If this film is being billed as a comedy, where are the laughs?  All I saw were predictable clichés at best.  None of which were funny. Not even the one-armed tattoo artist played by Steve Coogan.  Were they trying to make fun of The Fugitive in this instance?  I don’t know because all I could do was cringe while viewing.  Reminder: Stan and Ollie opens in select theaters on Friday.  You’ll have more fun seeing Coogan and Reilly bring Laurel and Hardy to life!

You’ll be wanting to say “No shit, Sherlock!” to the epic cinematic disgrace that is Holmes and Watson.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER:  Etan Coen
CAST:  Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Rebecca Hall, Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Lauren Lapkus, Kelly Macdonald, and Ralph Fiennes

Columbia Pictures opens Holmes and Watson in theaters on December 25, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.