There is something of an art to spoofing. While often unfairly labeled a poor man’s satire, a great spoof is a well-timed, immaculately planned and quite glorious thing. That’s what separates The Naked Gun’s from the Meet the Spartans and the Rowan Atkinson’s from the nameless teens who pube joked their way through all those lame Scary Movie cash-ins. Yet, sometimes, a film comes along with all the ingredients but - rather ironically in this case - not a clue what to do with them. Holmes & Watson is that film.
This re-teaming of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly ought to have been a sleuthing celebration of silly; instead it’s one of the most baffling cinematic turkeys of last year. The plot, such as it is, sees Sherlock Holmes (Farrell) faced with his greatest challenge yet, foiling an impending assassination of the Queen. Meanwhile, his trusted companion Dr. Watson (Reilly) finally hopes to do more than hold the magnifying glasses, as the game is afoot and takes the pair on an unexpected journey.
Holmes & Watson is head-scratchingly unfunny. Filled to busting with talent and potential that, say in the hands of Aardman animation, might flourish as well as it should, but here it all falls disappointingly flat. For the relatively brief 90-minute duration you find yourself fidgetingly feeling it’s double the length, as everything Etan Cohen’s script pulls out, fails to muster any semblance of a laugh. Already the film has become quite infamous for its bad reception and walkouts (there was one at our - admittedly sparse - screening) and it’s hardly surprising. The spark and mad chemistry of Ferrell and Reilly’s previous unions is extinguished by the dated script (save for the odd Donald Trump jab) and sequences that have been done before and immeasurably better.
The movie’s biggest crime though, aside from its casual abandonment of plot and point, is its absurd level of waste. The sets and period detail are exceptional, as are the costumes, but it’s all wasted as window dressing to piss poor gags and weirdly uncomfortable levels of cringe (a selfie sight gag) with ill-fitting music accompaniment. Then there’s the cast, which is rich in excellence and up for anything! Unforgivably though, there is sod all for any of them to do. Ferrell and Reilly attempt to lead by example but this Arthur Conan Doyle inspired comedy carnival is too much of a mess to save, and they are left wailing and flailing aimlessly (at one point literally). Rebecca Hall, Pam Ferris and Kelly MacDonald are cluelessly flung into scenes, Rob Brydon has virtually no chance to drop anything resembling a joke (or barely even a line), Steve Coogan is sinfully wasted in a stunningly brief fight scene (the film’s best bit actually) and the often unappreciated comic flair of Ralph Fiennes goes once more untapped and he’s entirely squandered as Moriarty. The cameos range from award winning actors to WWE wrestler and everyone tries to wrangle something out of this but they cannot save the day - nor can a music number penned by Alan Menken.
There were better jokes in the Holmes outings of Rathbone, Cumberbatch and Downey Jr. (the latter of which this takes biggest aim at) than there are here. This ridiculously, disappointingly and illogically unfunny film is one case even Sherlock Holmes cannot crack.
HOLMES & WATSON / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: ETAN COHEN / SCREENPLAY: ETAN COHEN / STARRING: WILL FERRELL, JOHN C. REILLY, REBECCA HALL, RALPH FIENNES, STEVE COOGAN, ROB BRYDON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 4 out of 10