Release Date: December 25, 2018
Director: Etan Cohen
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 89 Minutes
In a year with so many notable entries in the annals of cinematic history, it’s a shame that it ends on such a sour note, with the release of one of the most unflinchingly dismal titles to grace the screen in 2018, Holmes & Watson.
Judging from the pedigree of the two leads, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, it seems that a Sherlock Holmes spoof would be rife with comedic content, but let’s dispel any of these notions straight away: Holmes & Watson is so defiantly humorless that it seems to punish any small amount of laughs by doubling down on every joke, thus knocking the wind out of the sails of even the “funniest” moments and reducing them to childishly annoying at best.
Ferrell plays Holmes, who’s hot off a murder case involving his greatest foe, Professor Moriarty (played by the nearly non-existent Ralph Fiennes). During a party at Buckingham Palace, a body is found in a cake with a note stating that the queen will be murdered unless Holmes can find the perpetrator.
At his right hand is the bumbling Dr. John Watson, played by Reilly, who wants nothing more than to become Holmes’ co-detective. Together, the two team up with Dr. Grace Hart (Rebecca Hall) and Hart’s test subject, Millie (Lauren Lapkus), a woman who is mute for most of the film and is said to have been raised by feral cats. Dr. Hart and Millie act as little more than love interests for Holmes and Dr. Watson, and, aside from a few gags involving the fact that they’re from America and have a predilection for firearms (with a Trump joke thrown in for good measure), they were underutilized.
Despite being present in every scene, Ferrell and Reilly are underutilized as well, with the film reducing their comedic prowess to stupid physical gags and contemporary pop culture references that we’re supposed to find funny because it’s the turn of the century. What a gas.
It would seem that the filmmakers involved in compiling this tragedy were also aware of what they were about to subject the world to and haphazardly added additional dialogue in post, resulting in multiple scenes of words not matching lips. In the final scene there’s even an additional line of dialogue added where Ferrell’s mouth doesn’t move at all. Sloppy doesn’t begin to describe how poorly cobbled together this movie is.
Holmes & Watson is a film with boundless comedic potential that is squandered due to a lackluster script that even the powerhouse duo of John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell can’t even begin to save. The fact that it’s such a colossal missed opportunity makes it all that more painful to watch. My wife had the pleasure of sleeping through a large chunk of the movie, but I was not so fortunate. I had to sit there in a full, largely silent theater for an hour and a half like everyone else, questioning why I chose to spend my Christmas enduring this painful experience.