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“Holmes & Watson” mysteriously devoid of entertainment value


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Scene from “Holmes & Watson” | Courtesy photo

Somebody should get fired for this.

Ok, so maybe that’s an overly hyperbolic response. I don’t really want to see people lose their jobs over “Holmes & Watson.” Even if heads were to metaphorically roll over this toxic garbage island of a movie, studio underlings who had little to do with it would pay the cost. Meanwhile, those most responsible would continue to fail upwards.

But seriously. This movie is awful.

“Holmes & Watson” is a slapstick-filled mystery yarn, led by Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell), London’s most legendary detective. Assisted by his long-time friend, John Watson (John C. Reilly), Holmes works to foil a plot to kill the Queen of England set in motion by the evil Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes). Meanwhile, the crime-solving duo fall in love with a pair of American women and Holmes must learn to embrace his long shut-off feelings. Sounds fun, right?

It’s not.

“Holmes & Watson” is incompetently scripted and dreadfully unfunny. Instead of playing like a work of visual storytelling, this flick plays like an excuse for Ferrell and Reilly to goof off on expensive-looking sets. The movie is a series of unconnected slapstick skits, full of pratfalls and witless wordplay.

Much of the blame needs to fall on writer/director Ethan Cohen. He’s made a movie that lacks any surprises, and surprise is essential for good comedy. The laughs don’t come if you can see the punchline coming.

Cohen also slips in a number of political jokes that are poorly executed and don’t get laughs. Ditto for most of the jokes that take some of the minutiae of modern life and re-imagine them in an early 20th Century context. The selfie stick joke could have worked in another movie, but the rest of these kinds of gags fall flat.

The bad scripting and dull humor leave the cast struggling. Ferrell and Reilly do what they can, but that results in them going way over the top and failing to create characters we care enough to laugh at. The supporting characters don’t help much. Rebecca Hall, who plays Watson’s love interest, looks like she’d rather be somewhere else while Lauren Lapkus is irritating as a woman who was raised by feral cats.

As you can see, there’s a lot of cinematic sewage in “Holmes & Watson,” but that begs the question of whether this movie has any redeeming qualities at all. It does, and I can list them all right now. Ahem:

  • The sets look pretty good.
  • Hugh Laurie shows up for a scene as Mycroft Holmes and immediately makes you wish you were watching a movie about him instead.
  • Although it feels at least twice as long, the running time is only 90 minutes.

I’m sure it seems like I’m going overboard bashing “Holmes & Watson,” a movie that doesn’t want to be much more than an entertainingly silly comedy. But I had low expectations based on the trailers, and this flick still managed to underwhelm me. This “comedy” got a total of two chuckles out of me. That’s it. Bottom line? I’ve had more fun at funerals.

½ Indy Fedora out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on