“Would you like some heroin?” – Dr. John Watson
My original tagline for this website used to be “Sticking Up for the Bullied Movies”, because I prided myself on doing something other critics rarely did – I gave credit to movies that are, for whatever reason, infamous in the film industry. Technically, movies can absolutely suck, but if they succeed in one area, albeit, an area overshadowed by the bad, I try my best to shine a light on that shadowy area. A prime example of a film I consistently stand up for is The Emoji Movie. I could could talk for hours on how that film didn’t even half deserve the hate it got, and while I normally understand where hate comes from, that’s one where I genuinely didn’t understand the origin of the bias. But, we’re not going to talk about that. We’re talking about another universally hated film that most people considered the worst of the year, and that is Holmes & Watson.
This time around, I’m afraid the critics have gotten it right, but why is that? The answer to this question may be more complicated than you might imagine. I don’t actually think the reason why I disliked it lines up with the reasons you might dislike it. Comedy itself is subjective, so ranking comedy is often difficult, but I know plenty of people found it unfunny. For the most part, I did too, but not because it’s Will Farrell’s brand of humor. I knew that going in, so that isn’t so much of a problem. It’s lining up that brand of humor with a very established icon of literature. Something about this mashup doesn’t sit so well with me. Don’t misunderstand. I care very little about source material, as long as the movie taking the liberties does a good job with their craft, and Holmes & Watson never actually takes itself seriously enough to do a good job. So, as I’ll cover, certain areas of the film are simply distracting in a negative way that ultimately affected other elements of the film. But hey…you can at least tell they had fun with what they were doing. So…there’s that.
Detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson join forces to investigate a murder at Buckingham Palace. They soon learn that they have only four days to solve the case, or the queen will become the next victim.TheMovieDb
PEOPLE – 6/20 (30%)
Acting – 0/4 | Characters – 1/4 | Casting – 1/4 | Importance – 2/4 | Chemistry – 2/4
Certainly, people were not only fuming at the prospect of Will Ferrell playing the greatest detective in literature, but also confused, since he is…American. One might even say insulted. I don’t immediately get insulted when movies are Americanized or if an American uses a British accent. In this case, you have Will Ferrell, who more or less mocks the accent, along with John C. Reilly. Then again, it’s a parody…so…I get it. My issue came to the acting, which was specifically bad enough to be a distraction…which is more or less standard for Will Ferrell, unfortunately. He is an over-actor because that’s his brand of humor, and in this case, it just doesn’t work so well. The characters are famous, so it gets some points for that, but their presentations of the characters was so bad that it lessened what made them so good in the first place and just transformed them into Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Also expected, but it’s disappointing to see that their characterizations aren’t even specific on their own. I will say that they work well together, they always have, so their on-screen chemistry works for what it is, but…it’s not Sherlock or Watson, let’s be clear.
WRITING – 2/10 (20%)
Dialogue – 0/2 | Balance – 1/2 | Story Depth – 0/2 | Originality – 0/2 | Interesting – 1/2
Writing is such a integral part of any mystery film, let alone a Sherlock Holmes mystery, and this is probably where I would say the film severely failed. Dialogue is one of the many things that Sherlock is known for. If you don’t think so, go back and watch his character in anything. No matter the version, their dialogue is so very specific to who they are. Not so here. In fact, it’s specifically the things he says in this film that are not only obviously just making fun of other Sherlock tales, but take you out of the movie entirely because half the time…they are “era jokes”. Era jokes are jokes made in a film that takes place in a certain era made specifically for a modern audience that can pick up on them. It can be good if it’s more tongue-in-cheek or subtle humor, but in this case, it’s in your face as if it doesn’t believe the audience is smart enough to pick up on them. You’ve all heard a joke isn’t funny if you have to explain it, and that’s ultimately what they do here. A few minor things to mention – as this is a stupid comedy, there’s no redeeming or meaningful story to be found, there’s nothing original about it, since it just feels like another Will Ferrell flop; the mystery could’ve been a lot smarter, since it IS Sherlock, but it’s not, and the clues they follow are as pathetic as any given Adam West/Batman clue – except not as clever in an approach at humor as the ’60s Batman had. The writing category failed at almost everything, and because of that, it affected most of the other categories in the long run.
BTS – 5/10 (50%)
Visuals – 1/2 | Cinematography – 1//2 | Editing – 1/2 | Advertising – 2/2 | Music/Sound – 0/2
While I would say Holmes & Watson is below average when it comes to behind-the-scenes, I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s true by much, as the average score for this is only 1 more point. Pretty much everything here was as-expected, other than the music. The music choice, of course, had to do with implementing modern music into a non-modern era for humorous purposes. Doesn’t quite work the way they want it to, though, and is another one of those distractions in the long run. Everything else was typical here, though.
NARRATIVE ARC 8/10 (80%)
Introduction – 2/2 | Inciting Incident – 2/2 | Obstacles – 1/2 | Climax – 2/2 | Resolution – 1/2
Now, it’s time to give the film credit where it’s due, and that’s in its narrative structure…which granted…wasn’t that hard. The narrative arc is arguably the easiest category to get full point in if they’re even remotely trying. No, they didn’t get full points, but they did an alright job here. The only issue they had here was the obstacles, because in a mystery, obstacles are rather simple to run into because they’re simply put – the clues. Like I said before, though, the clues are neither here or there, and put in there more for comedic purposes than any real connections to the mystery at hand, so they can’t be seen as good obstacles. The other issue comes from the resolution and tying things up in a way that both calms things down and returns to a new sense of norm. It calms down, but it is what it is. Everything else is rather solid, so I will give it credit there…but that’s basically where the credit ends, other in one area in the specialty category, but…we’ll get there in a bit.
ENTERTAINMENT – 1/10 (10%)
Rewatchability – 0/2 | Fun Experience – 1/2 | Impulse/Buy – 0/2 | Impulse/Talk – 0/2 | Sucks You In – 0/2
I feel like this goes without saying, but this isn’t a very entertaining film. Why though? Is it because it’s just a bad representation of Sherlock Holmes in general? Nonsense. I don’t care about that. It’s a bad film in general because it is a bad parody. Parodies and spoofs based on specific films or characters are where spoofs and parodies go bad. Parodies only succeed with an idea or theme. Some of Will Ferrell’s other films are okay examples of that. This just shows when people try too hard. You will see that I awarded one point to fun experience, because some of the jokes had me chuckling. Not many, mind you. Just a few. Everything else in this area is bad. I don’t want to watch this movie again, I don’t care to buy it or own it in any way, I don’t think there’s many discussion-worthy elements to it, and it is so simple-minded that I don’t think you need to pay that close of attention to anything, which essentially means it doesn’t suck you in.
SPECIALTY – 10/40 (25%)
Sherlock – 0/10 | Mystery – 0/10 | Comedy – 0/10 | Halfway Decent – 10/10
Finally, we look at the specialty category, which goes over the basic expectations when approaching Holmes & Watson. Sherlock Holmes is an international icon, and with him, he brings a certain expectation. For some, that expectation may be specific, but with others, not so much, but there’s always a primitive expectation that has something to do with him be brilliant and solving a case. Making him as stupid as Will Farrell did was a disservice to the character in the most basic of ways that it can’t get anything but zero points. As a mystery, it seemed rather simple, so much so that in the writing room, they couldn’t think to come up with one clever clue that points the detectives in a general direction. As far as comedy, I may have chuckled here and there, but that might be because I’m making fun of it, not so much it actually being funny. Here’s where things get interesting though. No matter what anybody says. No matter how much the movie is hated, it is evidently clear that they don’t care what you think, and possibly even expected the outrage, and more or less are laughing about it. These people had a great, great time making the movie and the way it was made was actually exactly what they wanted to do, so that deserves praise.