Released: 26th December
Seen: 27th December
In all of literature, one of the most beloved and adapted characters is that of Sherlock Holmes. The story of a genius detective who goes around solving crimes, defeating Moriarty and working with his friend Dr Watson is the stuff of legends that everyone has had a crack at. He’s been in action oriented films, weekly episodic TV shows, miniseries, he was a gnome at one point, an animated rat another time, a doctor for a very long period of time and even a Japanese puppet. Sherlock Holmes has been everything and in every kind of movie… and now, he can add “Awful unfunny comedy” to the long list of film projects he’s been associated with.
The film opens on a quote that is later revealed to be from Season 2 of Hannah Montana… so you know we’re off to a good start. Once we’re done with the quote, Watson & Holmes follows Sherlock Holmes (Will Farrell), a detective who claims to be one of the most brilliant minds ever but is actually a bumbling fool with an overinflated sense of ego that somehow manages to solve grisly murders even though it should be classed as a miracle that he knows how to tie his shoelaces. He’s joined by Dr John Watson (John C Reilly), a doctor who is somehow too dumb to notice when he’s been handed a tea laced with poison. After Sherlock lets Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) escape from a jail sentence because… Moriarty used an exact body double and killed all the witnesses and is in America, but we’re meant to believe that he’s not for about half the film until they dramatically reveal that Sherlock was right all along, it’s a thing, oh my god, just pretend this is interesting. ANYWAY Sherlock receives a letter, allegedly from Moriarty, telling him that if Sherlock doesn’t solve his crime he’s going to change history and kill the Queen (Pam Ferris). Will he solve th- Oh screw it, I can’t even be bothered to type out the dramatic question that is the main portion of the plot because this film is actual garbage.
Doing a comedic take on Sherlock Holmes is, in itself, a good idea. The character lends himself perfectly to being parodied and there are worse ways to do it than to have him be a dunce who just happens to solve crimes. I don’t even think I’d object too much to Will Farrell portraying him the way Will Farrell portrays everything but god damn it, can someone write a better script? I got more laughs of of Friedberg/Seltzer movies than I did out of this one, at least those movies were so poorly put together that you laugh during the pain while here, you just feel pain. The script is beyond pathetic, what little bit of script they decided to use in the finished product anyway. I’m convinced that half of what we’re seeing was just Farrell and Reilly doing crappy cosplay that someone decided to film on a drunken bet. If you’re going to do a parody of Sherlock Holmes then actually to an actual parody. Write a story worthy of Sherlock Holmes and make fun of it while you do it, a competent writer could have made this work but we don’t seem to have one of those available so instead we get excrement.
The film is a visual disaster, simple shots of people talking are so shaky that I’m stunned no one sitting at the monitors noticed. Visual jokes don’t work because they’re so badly filmed that you lose track of where everything is. There are times when I swear the set was just a regular city street and a bag of leaves, which might work for Halloween but that’s a film made by someone who knows what they’re doing. The one time there’s something visually interesting is when they steal the imagery that previous Sherlock media has done and decides to do the discount version of it. It’s the only time it looks like it might be a movie, but then you look closer and realise it’s actually the results of a bet to see who can make the most awful film between Satan and whatever is worse than Satan. Even simple visual jokes fail. If you’re going to do a broad comedic joke about how Sherlock vomits whenever he’s around a corpse (An actual joke they try to do… when it’s convenient, he literally sees a corpse fall out of a cake and he’s fine but then they go to the morgue and suddenly he’s squeamish) then do a broad joke about Sherlock vomiting. I’ve literally spat up more phlegm while clearing my throat than they had for an alleged comedic vomiting scene. Oh, and if you’re not cool with vomit, piss and shit jokes then you might want to skip this one because it’s the best they have… I mean, in general I’d suggest skipping this one (Have you picked up on that yet?) but for those who don’t find jokes about being covered in horse shit funny, this might not be your cup of poisoned tea.
The most depressing part is the casting. Will Farrell is a great comedian who has such joyful exuberance in every role he does but here it finally became absolutely irritating. His hyper-manic performance maybe net’s one or two mild chuckles out when he’s violently hitting people in the face with a bat while trying to hit a mosquito but other than that, the man is clearly on some kind of sugar high the entire film because you can’t keep his face still for 5 seconds. Every single syllable needs to be accompanied by an eyebrow going right to the back of his head. It’s almost manic and I don’t know if it’s intentional or if that’s just the only thing Will Farrell knows how to do now but either way, oh god make it stop. John C Reilly is, somehow, devoid of all his comic timing. It boggles the mind how bad these two are together, their rhythms are dead and they don’t even feel like they’re in the same film. Then there’s poor Ralph Fiennes who is somehow expected to pull off Moriarty by just standing there and being Ralph Fiennes. That’s it, that’s all he does for most of the film is just exist and his presence is meant to do the work for us. I think the only person who gives a performance that’s actually trying to make something decent out of what she’s been given is Pam Ferris, who handled the role of the Queen with a quiet dignity and actually would make for a good comedic foil if someone was actually throwing jokes at her. The one time she gets to have a great joke is when her character “dies” (for like a minute or two) and she’s suddenly replaced with an obvious doll so they can stuff her into a box for ‘comedic’ effect. Other than that, maybe the Hugh Laurie cameo gets a little bit of a chuckle but, much like Pam, only because Hugh Laurie is genuinely a great performer and manages to wring something out of the pile of nothing he’s been given.
At one point during the film I could’ve sworn I fell asleep, but then I realized that the problem wasn’t that I’d fallen asleep (God help me, I’m not lucky enough to pass out during this!) but that the editing is so awful that you genuinely have several moments where it feels like scenes were missing. Maybe they cut them so that they’d have room for the ‘hilarious’ ad libs that they needed to show us. Line-O-Rama is a phrase often used to talk about scenes where they clearly just did multiple takes and let the actors make up punch lines. It’s a good idea, in theory, to have the actors just try out ideas and see which one works… but you’re then meant to pick a joke and move on instead of just showing 3 or 4 alternate lines. Was the script written on a napkin? Is it just that threadbare that there wasn’t any actual dialogue and so they left it to the actors? Because that’s what it feels like and it’s not good at all. None of it is good. Hell, when we finally get told what the big mystery is (I’m not spoiling it, though if you’re reading this then hopefully you don’t care) it’s bad because there were no hints about just who was the killer. There was no way to solve the case because it relies heavily on information that we’re never given and isn’t even part of the original text so even a hardcore fan of Sherlock would never guess it because it requires you to make up information that actively goes against known elements of the original books, so we can’t even get THAT element of the parody right.
Oh, and did I mention the not even slightly funny political comedy? Because it’s there, and it’s amazingly awful. I’m no fan of Donald Trump, I love a good joke at his expense, and this film can’t even give me that. They blatantly reference him with a fez that has “Make England Great Again” on it, because that will never date the film in any way and won’t at all be cringy and unfunny. THEN they do an entire bit on how the Electoral College might help America elect a dictatorial buffoon, which would be funny if there was a joke in there at some point but jokes require effort and this film doesn’t want to do that. Oh, and the film’s climax takes place on the Titanic and they are so on the nose about the joke they’re doing that at one point they literally say “Oh look, it’s Billy Zane”. So, now you not only know just how basic the ‘jokes’ are, but also you have your reminder that Billy Zane is alive so that’s a nice thing to say about this movie. It reminded me that iconic actor Billy Zane was actually still alive.
It cannot be overstated how bad this film is, from the fundamentals of film making to the basics of how jokes work to the concept of decent acting, it fails at everything. Nothing about it works, nothing about it is good. They had all the right ingredients to make something funny, but then decided to piss in the mixture and pass it off as something of quality. This film is so bad that even the jokes in the trailer aren’t funny thanks to the editing. Watch the trailer above. Congratulations, you laughed more watching that than I did watching the full length movie. Avoid like the plague… or just catch the plague; it’s preferable to this movie.
Flaming garbage, if flaming garbage was also boring
4 thoughts on “Holmes & Watson (2018) – The Defective Detective”
Great review, it’s definitely a pass from me then. But you do deserve a huge congratulations for surviving the entire movie. Happy New Year!
I’m not sure I survived, I may be ringing in the new year as a corpse. Happy New Year to you too 🙂