BY THE GROUCH ON THE COUCH
I hate this movie too much to give it a stinger.
Sherlock Holmes (Will “What the hell happened” Ferrell) and John Watson (John C. “Seriously, you guys are usually funny” Reilly) try to protect the queen from being murdered by James Moriarity (Ralph “God, I hope you got this in cash up front” Fiennes). Everything else that would potentially be plot is irrelevant crap.
Because of the bad reviews, I waited until I didn’t have to pay for this movie. I should have seen it in theaters so I would have actual damages for my impending tort claim against this film. This took up like 90 minutes of my life. 90 minutes I could have spent doing anything else. I could have watched Plan 9 From Outer Space, because at least that’s the FUN kind of bad. This film somehow was never even close to amusing.
I have never seen a movie this aggressively unfunny. Even the parts of this movie that seem like they SHOULD be funny, particularly given the relatively high-level comedians who are found in the cast, somehow become irritating and flat. Part of it is that the film never feels like it’s surprising the audience. The more obvious the joke, the more likely it’s going to be what’s said next, so why do we even need them to say it? There’s an episode of South Park where Stan starts to see that everything around him is actually crap, envisioning bad films as filled with talking and dancing turds. This film was taken from that episode, then given brain damage from a series of sledgehammer blows to the head, then set on fire by crackheads. This movie makes me almost want to apologize to Uwe Boll for the things I’ve said about him. Almost.
It’s tough to really nail down everything that doesn’t work here, but if I had to say why I particularly hate it, it’s that nobody in the film appears to be trying. Ferrell and Reilly don’t appear to be invested in any part of this, going through the motions almost robotically without any of their added flair. In 2015, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig appeared in a movie for Lifetime called A Deadly Adoption in which they both play actual Lifetime characters with complete sincerity, the “joke” being that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig both played straight characters in a Lifetime film. A lot of critics agreed that wasn’t really funny. I actually thought it was kind of amusing, because at least it was original to spend all the time and effort to create a comedy set-up and then play it straight. I would respect this movie it was going for something like that. It wouldn’t be fun, sure, but it would at least have shown that they were trying.
What’s extremely weird about the movie is that it can never decide what any of the characters are. It’s like they had 3 different drafts of the movie which each had completely different interpretations of Holmes and Watson and they decided to use all of them. Holmes is portrayed simultaneously as a legitimate genius, a complete idiot, and also an insane person. This isn’t like in Without a Clue or They Might Be Giants where the character is supposed to be completely separate from the actual fictional Sherlock Holmes, thus explaining why they’re not actually good detectives. This movie features Sherlock being honored as one of the most superior minds in the world, something that just doesn’t sync with watching him constantly fumbling around doing slapstick. Watson, who at least can be characterized as a bumbling sidekick, is therefore forced to drop down in intelligence to the point of being a complete fool, despite still ALSO being a recognized figure for his work with Holmes. I think this is why this particular strain of comedic take on Holmes doesn’t quite work. You can’t have both of them be simultaneously competent and incompetent. That’s not to say that films haven’t pulled that off, in fact The Private Eyes with Tim Conway and Don Knotts does it with a pair of detectives, but it only works there because the entire world of the movie is absurd. This film can never decide how serious it is supposed to be and that makes for a lousy comedy.
The supporting characters suffer from similar problems, such as Holmes’s and Watson’s love interests Dr. Hart and the Feral Millie (Rebecca Hall and Lauren Lapkus), who are completely absurd except when they aren’t. Similar things happen with the villain *SPOILERS BUT F*CK THIS MOVIE*, Mrs. Hudson (Kelly Macdonald), who is revealed to be the mastermind of a brilliant scheme that is also pointlessly complicated and dumb. Seriously, these are all good people, and none of them could get a chuckle out of me.
I will say that one thing did make me laugh: There’s a scene on the Titanic with Billy Zane, and that’s a fun cameo. That’s about it.
Avoid this movie like the plague. I cannot believe the same person that wrote Idiocracy and Tropic Thunder wrote this. Someone should genuinely check on Etan Cohen to make sure he’s okay. I know all of these people will do better in the future, but this… this was rough. That’s about all I can say.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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