movies: Holmes and Wat­son back on the big screen..........

Sherlock doesn’t have a clue, writes Kyle Smith of The New York Post

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAYCONTENTS -

AFRILLY Vic­to­rian lady ef­fort­lessly hurls an as­sas­sin out the win­dow of a mov­ing train. ‘‘I think it’s time you should leave!’’ she says, just be­fore he plum­mets into the, er, leaves of the trees be­low.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shad­ows is so moron-friendly they should have called it Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Check­ers. The skill level in the script is ele­men­tary school, my dear Wat­son.

The film­mak­ers have elected to grab the name of one of pop­u­lar lit­er­a­ture’s most en­dur­ing he­roes and paste a com­pletely dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter on him. Robert Downey Jr’s Holmes, meant to be ‘‘fun’’ and ‘‘con­tem­po­rary’’, is a fey Ri­talin case, a whirling kick­boxer, blath­ery trivia-blurter and de­liv­erer of woe­ful wise­cracks.

He’s like an ag­gres­sively ec­cen­tric Johnny Depp cre­ation meets Jackie Chan with wit by Steven Sea­gal.

The movie’s idea of a great joke is for Holmes to call his even smarter brother My­croft ‘‘Mikey,’’ while the lat­ter (Stephen Fry, a boy­hood fan of Arthur Co­nan Doyle whose self-ha­tred must be lim­it­less about now) calls Sherlock ‘‘Shirley’’. An­other joke, the sole rea­son for a scene that limps on for a minute or two, is the pre­sen­ta­tion of Fry naked. But this is tragic, not comic.

Holmes and Wat­son (Jude Law) are ex­plor­ing a se­ries of an­ar­chist bomb­ings that seem to be fo­ment­ing war be­tween France and Ger­many, and the fo­menter in chief is Pro­fes­sor Mo­ri­arty.

This ur-su­pervil­lain is played by the mid­dling ac­tor Jared Har­ris, so early ru­mours Brad Pitt would play the role are now but a plan­gent re­minder of the larger failed prom­ise – not to men­tion a sign of su­per taste on Pitt’s part.

It’s 1891, when, at a stag party for Wat­son, Holmes stum­bles upon a gypsy for­tune teller (Noomi Ra­pace, the star of the Swedish ver­sion of The Girl With the Dragon Tat­too) whose brother is a rad­i­cal tied to the bomb­ings. As­sas­sins plague Wat­son’s hon­ey­moon train, which oc­ca­sions an ab­surd ac­tion scene (with Downey in girls’ clothes and blue eye shadow) punc­tu­ated with even worse di­a­logue. Af­ter a ma­chine­gun blasts holes in a se­ries of walls, Holmes tells his side­kick it’s ‘‘your win­dow of op­por­tu­nity’’.

For a ded­i­cated foe of crime, Sherlock seems aw­fully blase about any ca­su­al­ties that might re­sult from the hundreds of rounds of bul­lets fired on the train. In­stead he smirks and clowns and grap­ples with Wat­son, who at one point has his face be­tween Holmes’ knees.

As for Rachel Mcadams’ Irene Adler, she de­liv­ers par­cel bombs, lead­ing to a Holmes line about ‘‘the chaos caused by your pack­age’’. Hang on, let’s not bring up An­thony Weiner.

With any hint at fe­male love in­ter­ests safely re­moved, Ra­pace checks back in as a sort of chap­er­one or lit­tle sis­ter. The guys’ matey-ness peaks in a scene in which, while they’re sup­posed to be in­con­spic­u­ous at a diplo­matic meet­ing in (Holme­sians, take note) Re­ichen­bach Falls, Switzer­land, they waltz each other around the dance floor in for­mal wear.

‘‘Who taught you to dance?’’ says Holmes. ‘‘You did,’’ says Wat­son. The ev­ery-10-min­utes ac­tion se­quences rely heav­ily on Ma­trix time – al­ter­nat­ing su­per-fast and su­per-slow mo­tion. This has long since be­come rou­tine, but it beats the brain­less gags, such as Holmes’ drink­ing formalde­hyde, his cam­ou­flage suit, his silly dis­guises and his rid­ing a small pony be­cause he’s afraid of horses.

Holmes doesn’t even cut it as an an­a­lyst: Spot­ting a wine stain on a piece of pa­per, he as­sumes that the print­ing press must have been in a wine cel­lar. Be­cause that’s the only way wine could get on a note. In France. This kind of wild, un­sci­en­tific con­jec­ture is (or ought to be) an­ti­thet­i­cal to the char­ac­ter.

The last act, which seems to have flown in from some other movie, is a big im­prove­ment that gives us a break from the dumb jokes.

But in the fi­nal sec­onds, a chance to close with a cool cliffhanger is tossed away in favour of one more chintzy gag. Mys­tery? Thrills? Com­edy? You’ll see more in an episode of Scooby-doo.

Robert Downey Jr, Noomi Ra­pace and Jude Law in

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shad­ows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shad­ows opens to­day.

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