Film Review: Holmes & Watson (dir by Etan Cohen)


Will Ferrell is Sherlock Holmes!

John C. Reilly is John Watson!

Together, they get really bad reviews!

Well, that and solve crimes and protect royalty.  Holmes & Watson, which came out this previous Christmas, features Sherlock and John attempting to prevent Professor Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) from assassinating Queen Victoria.  Watson, being the proud Englishman that he is, is an obsessive fan of Queen Victoria.  In fact, he’s such a fan that, upon meeting her, he insists that she pose for a “self-photography” with him and Holmes.  Of course, cameras back then were a lot bigger and more bulkier than cameras today so Watson ends up bashing the Queen in the head.  Watson and Holmes are terrified that they’ve killed the Queen.  But then she wakes up.  That’s the joke.

Holmes & Watson isn’t so much a parody of the original Sherlock Holmes stories as much as it’s a parody of the Guy Ritchie films that almost everyone has already forgotten about.  Of course, it can be argued that the Guy Ritchie films were, themselves, parodies which makes Holmes & Watson a parody of a parody.  (Now, we just need someone to parody Holmes & Watson so that the universe can collapse in on itself.)  As a result, the film opens with a young Sherlock Holmes being tricked into kissing a donkey’s ass and then it progresses to an adult Holmes using his deductive powers to deduce that a man is a compulsive masturbator.  The film never seems to be quite sure if its version of Holmes is meant to be an eccentric genius or an overrated bungler and Will Ferrell’s inconsistent performance doesn’t help matters.  When Holmes starts to incorrectly suspect that Watson has betrayed him, we don’t know if we’re supposed to share Watson’s feeling of betrayal or if this is just another case of Holmes being a brilliant idiot.  The film doesn’t seem to know either.

In the role of Watson, John C. Reilly is expected to do most of the dramatic heavy lifting.  He gets several scenes in which he discusses how difficult it is to always be the sidekick.  It’s a role that Reilly has played in several other films and perhaps that explains why he seems so bored in this movie.  We’re all kind of used to Will Ferrell being an inconsistent performer but it’s far more depressing to see John C. Reilly sleepwalking through a film.

Anyway, Holmes & Watson is not a film that I normally would have wasted my time seeing but, with so many people proclaiming it to be not only the worst film of 2018 but the worst film of all time, I felt that I had a certain obligation to do so.  After all, I’ll be posting my worst of and best of lists over this upcoming week and Holmes & Watson seemed like it would be a legitimate contender for one of those lists.  Having now seen the film, I can say that it’s pretty bad.  Unfortunately, unlike some other bad films, it’s also rather dull and forgettable.  It’s certainly far more dull than any film featuring John C. Reilly, Ralph Fiennes, Rebecca Hall, Hugh Laurie, Steve Coogan, and Kelly MacDonald has any right to be.  It’s a comedy where so many of the jokes fall flat that even the jokes that do work kind of suffer just by association.  Usually, I would have laughed at the film’s Billy Zane cameo but I was still annoyed by the film’s unnecessary musical number so I merely chuckled.

If Holmes & Watson has a saving grace, it is that it’s just a silly comedy.  It’s not really pompous enough to justify the claim that some have made that it’s the worst film of all time.  It’s neither as smug as Vice nor as pretentious as Life Itself.  In fact, it’s not even the worst comedy of the year.  (That honor would belong to The Happytime Murders.)  What Holmes & Watson is, is a huge disappointment.  With all the talent involved, you would hope that the film would be a bit more memorable.