Holmes and Watson does not offer high hopes going into it. The film currently sits at 6% on Rotten Tomatoes and at one point had the dreadful honour of being completely at 0%.
Watching it confirms the fact that it is entirely rotten. Which is an absolute shame. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are comedy greats and usually together their humour is multiplied...but clearly the problem lies in the script and direction.
Both duties fall under Etan Cohen, not to be confused with Joel and Ethan Coen and definitely not to be confused with Joel Cohen, writer of Garfield. Of all the Coen/Cohen’s in Hollywood, we’ve found our Paul W.S. Anderson equivalent.
Previously the filmmaker behind Ferrell vehicle Get Hard, it’s amazing to see someone get worse, particularly this worse.
Holmes and Watson has all the trappings of a Sherlock Holmes story and all the trappings of a potentially great comedy handled with the grace of the Running of the Bulls through the World’s Largest China Shop. So inefficient and unfunny, it’s definitely not great when you look around at the silence caused by the severe lack of jokes in the minutes before the opening credits (except one person in my screening, but there’s always gonna be one intergalactic alien trying to fit in as a secret human).
The film is severely bland and lacking, full of choices that seem completely misguided. Ferrell decides to put on a strange accent for Holmes that doesn’t work at all, and Reilly’s Watson is overly and unfunnily violent, yet these are choices never dissuaded by the director, which is concerning.
Holmes and Watson has a story, if you can believe that, one where Moriarty (played by the criminally underused and probably overpaid Ralph Fiennes) has a presence, but is harshly pushed to the side in favour of an invisible antagonist you can figure out by spoilers by billing.
On a completely unrelated note, Kelly MacDonald is in this movie and she continues to be brilliant and brilliantly Scottish in the things that she makes, and while her character is there for a bunch of anachronistic jokes and pushed to the side too, when her arc thins out it feels like it was a good idea made sour at the drop of a hat.
Somewhere, in this movie, there is a joke. I guess. I hope. Much like A Million Ways to Die in the West and other films of that ilk, the only thing that made me laugh was a heavy reference to a much better film that had humour in the fact it took you completely out of the movie you were watching, because it’s safer.
Holmes and Watson is a hollow entry to round out the year of comedy movies. Alan Menken and Glenn Slater offer the second closest thing to a joke with an original song that’s a parody of their work that’s nothing compared to Vanelope’s “I want” song parody in Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Everything in this movie has been done better and bigger and funnier and smarter. Hell, even the overrated later episodes of BBC’s Sherlock itself parodies itself better, even down to a drunk Sherlock scene that doesn’t have to stoop so low as this movie does for an attempt of a laugh.
It joins a bunch of movies I would give no stars to if I could, but the sheer fact that somehow this movie made it from conception to the silver screen is some sort of commendation. Plus it has a Titanic joke that makes no sense, but it makes more sense than the entirety of the film.
And before you say something, yes, the majority of jokes in this film are indeed out of time. And out of this world.
Which is not a good thing.