Early in the careers of Will Farrell and John C. Reilly, the duo found comedic success when paired together. Since their last outing in 2008’s Step Brothers, the actors have also been able find success as individuals, both stretching their acting abilities in certain areas, while finding time to let loose and test themselves comedically; to both critical and commercial success or failure. For the last decade though, many movie goers have been clamoring for the two to reunite on the screen and this year they have in Holmes and Watson an endeavor which, sadly, has proven to be the most uninspired project the two could have come together for.
Rather than try and create something original from played out ideas akin to 21 Jump Street or parody the likes of BBC’s Sherlock and Warner Brothers Holmes adaptation with Robert Downey Jr., Farrell and Reilly rely on endless clichés, lifeless sight gags, and utterly embarrassing punch lines to jokes that fail to have any semblance of a set up. Holmes and Watson is simply the best example of lazy filmmaking I have ever seen. An incoherent script, unfocused plot, and a pure waste of supporting acting talent are just a few of the films many sins.
The film opens with Holmes as a young boy being sent to boarding school by his mother, provoking the fleeting belief that perhaps this might be an interesting take on Sherlock’s origins that could propel the film to great heights. Sadly, no such take exists as Sherlock quickly becomes the victim of bullying from his classmates, to the point where his sole female crush dupes him into kissing a donkey’s ass. In response, Sherlock vows to never feel emotion again and does so by sucking in and reversing the tears he had just spent over the incident. Somehow, this reduction of emotion instantly make Sherlock the brilliant sleuth that we know and love, and using his new found talents to get his classmates expelled. Inexplicably, a young John Watson walks onto the screen after all the other children have disappeared, allowing the two men to begin their lifelong bond.
When we meet Sherlock as an adult he has just apprehended his greatest nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, played by Ralph Fiennes; an otherwise brilliant casting choice, but wasted in this film as one who can sit or stand and stare with complete villainy. As a result of his highlight arrest, Holmes has achieved a level of fame even greater than he can imagine. While Will Ferrell hones Sherlock’s selfishness, egotism, and emotional distance, he does so with a complete lack of charm. Ferrell’s Holmes revels in the applause and the adulation, and even delays his appearance in court just for the “precise dramatic moment” as he describes it to Watson. Cumberbatch and Downey Jr.’s respective Holmes would reveal this man for what he truly is, an imposter on all fronts.
Rebecca Hall enters the film eventually as an American doctor, one who has come to complete an autopsy for Holmes. Despicably, the character only exists to serve two plot points: the first being a way for Holmes to run aghast at the notion of a female holding such a highly esteemed position in society, and to be Dr. Watson’s love interest for the entirety of the film. Literally, Watson looks at her, the music that suggests he is in love at first sight plays, and suddenly she, Dr. Grace Hart is in love with Watson in the same instant. I should not have to say more.
It appears that the sole reason this film exists is because Ferrell woke up one morning and decided on two things; he simply had to play Sherlock Holmes in a comedy, and that he should call his buddy John C. Reilly because it had just been too long since they had worked together on something. I have a piece of advice for Mr. Ferrell: stick to dramatic work, it seems the case for you to still work in comedy has closed.