Shake & Bake For It’s All Elementary As Will Ferrell And John C. Reilly Re-Teams And Become Best Friends Again As The Iconic Detective Duo, But Is It Really As Bad As Everyone Says It Is?
More than 100 actors have played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character Sherlock Holmes on screen over a span of more than 100 years. Since the first known movie version in 1905, there have been more than 250 films featuring Holmes and his sidekick John Watson. That includes the newest adaptation directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law or the dozens upon dozens of TV episodes from the 1950s to the ’80s and ’00s. Currently prime time TV has versions of Sherlock with Johnny Lee Miller in the CBS TV series “Elementary”, or the best of the adaptations coming from BBC starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
Ready or not, brace yourselves for the next duo to take on the iconic detective duo, and it’s not who you would ever incorporate with the literary figures. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly one of the great comedic duos who previously worked together in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (2006) and one of the best comedies around “Step Brothers” (2008). The ex racing buddies and step brothers re-team as the newest incarnation of nineteenth century author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s flagship characters “Holmes & Watson”.
“Holmes & Watson” didn’t have a great journey to the big screen, as the film was originally announced in 2008 as a vehicle for Will Ferrell and “Borat” star Sacha Baron Cohen, where Cohen was set to star as Holmes. The final version with Ferrell and John C. Reilly was shot almost three years ago (already a bad sign for a film when release is delayed that long). During it’s opening days of its Christmas 2018 release, studio exhibitors who observed screenings in major cities had reported an astonishing number of walk-outs half way or even earlier in the film. “Holmes & Watson” had one of the worst track records of walk-outs ever recorded for a film. As the finished film tested so poorly Sony tried to pawn it off and sell it to Netflix, who immediately denied.
Etan Coen who wrote and directed the Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart comedy “Get Hard” is the credited writer-director of “Holmes & Watson”, but you kind of get the impression that the two leads are pretty much inventing and improvising their lines as they go along. “Holmes & Watson”, is pure camp as it doesn’t touch the brilliance of their second collaboration Step Brothers”.
“Holmes & Watson” is dumb and we all know that, but it’s also occasionally very funny. It’s enough to remind us how perfectly matched these two are. Gags are abound about autopsies, drunk telegrams, and the origins of the term “selfie” all ensue. Ferrell and Reilly sell the material and give their best effort as if their lives depended on it, and the chemistry and fun their having is infectious. In a sharper movie, Reilly’s “Watson” would be the voice of reason to Ferrell’s idiot version of “Holmes”. Here he’s almost as juvenile as “Holmes”, but having a traditional double act of bumbling idiots does occasionally add to the comedy.
“Holmes & Watson” feels a bit quaint, as its broad comedy is something that feels from a time when “Talladega Nights” and “Step Brothers” director Adam McKay was making great comedies with Will Ferrell instead of self-important docudramas like “Vice”. Watch out for “House” star Hugh Laurie as Mycroft Holmes, the onscreen calculations known as Sherlock-vision that was popularized by the Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch incarnations and one of the film’s funniest sequences, a brilliant musical number that is penned by Disney legend Alan Menken (“Little Mermaid”). Also watch the end credits and you’ll see that the film actually got the blessing of the estate of Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
It’s No Comparison To Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Sherlock” Or Robert Downey Jr’s “Sherlock Holmes”. It’s obviously on a whole different level. While it may not be as funny as their previous outings (especially “Step Brothers”) but the flick has enough slapstick, comic violence and general flailing about to keep fans entertained for it’s short 90 minute running time. Being that it’s only 90 minutes the pacing is tight and the film just flys on by. As loose as the plotting can get, there is one bit involving the lads and the Queen alone in their office that literally makes no story sense, but is hilarious! I can’t find it in myself to be particularly frustrated by “Holmes & Watson”. Admittedly it is not a film that deserves a walking out of. I had fun and I laughed more often than most people it seems. Give it a try, it’s a lot of fun and soon enough it will catch on with people and live on as a cult favorite. It’s elementary my dear readers.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)