Even conceptually ‘Holmes & Watson’ isn’t a particularly compelling film. This take on the famed detective Sherlock Holmes which switches his brains for idiocy, with his companion Dr. Watson being equally stupid, is just downright flawed to its very rotten core.
The film’s awfulness is almost mystifying. It feels like a cheap comedy sketch painfully stretched way past breaking point to feature length. Seeing as it’s loosely based on an old ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch, it seems that’s exactly what has happened.
For all the talk of the dream partnership between Will Ferrell (“The Lego Movie”, “Daddy’s Home”) and John C. Reilly (“Kong: Skull Island“, “Ralph Breaks The Internet“) the duo’s cinematic collaborations have produced more duds than hits, and ‘Holmes and Watson’ falls very squarely into the latter category.
Both leading men are poor but Ferrell phones it in to such a degree that it’s almost impressive. The veteran comedy actor gives Nicholas Cage a run for his money in the ‘not giving a shit’ department. Reilly isn’t much better, and while the pair usually have decent chemistry both are so unambitious artistically here that it never materialises in this case.
The central hook of the film sees Holmes (Ferrell) and Watson (Reilly) tracking down a shadowy criminal who is threatening to murder the queen of England. Obviously, it’d be foolish to expect an especially rich yarn from a whacky comedy film but even so the narrative spun is just plain bland.
Every beat is predictable and the big reveal moment, that almost all Sherlock Holmes adventures build too, is such a whimper that it’s about the only moment of the film that musters a laugh. Unfortunately it’s a laugh of pity not humour.
Perhaps a sort of period piece riff on ‘The Other Guys’ that would see Ferrell and Reilly playing bumbling detectives trying to compete with Holmes/Watson could have been interesting. Sadly ‘Holmes & Watson’ has no ambitions to do anything but the very bare minimum.
One scene sees Holmes, Watson and the Queen of England taking a ‘self-photograph’ with ‘pouty lips like a duck billed platypus’ another sees Holmes fool Watson with his brilliant disguise of just a stick-on moustache. That’s the quality of jokes we’re talking about here.
Your breaking point will likely vary but if the very worn out Donald Trump jokes (‘Make England Great Again’) don’t get you then surely the scene in which Dr. Watson literally lactates will be your cue to leave.
Those who stay to till the end will not be adequately rewarded for their efforts as the film is remarkably consistent, it starts atrociously and maintains that level of quality throughout. Even the supporting cast, which contains Ralph Fiennes (“Spectre“, “Kubo And The Two Strings“) and Steve Coogan (“Mindhorn“, “The Secret Life Of Pets“) among others, do very little to suggest they’re doing more than collecting an easy pay cheque.
Being at the foot of Will Ferrell’s filmography is no easy feat, he’s had more than his fair share of duds but ‘Holmes & Watson’ is truly something special. I’d call it ‘see it to believe it bad’ but that might suggest I was recommending a viewing and I cannot overstate how much I implore you to avoid this garbage.
This isn’t a promising idea unfortunately gone south. This is lazy filmmaking centred around the very misguided notion that simply slapping Ferrell and Reilly in period costumes and getting them to make painfully unfunny jokes will rake in millions.
‘Holmes & Watson’ has utterly failed on a quality level, for the good of the cinema industry it needs to fail on a commercial one as well. Nobody should have to suffer through this cinematic excretion and studios cannot be allowed to produce films of similar quality in future.