For a re­view of “Holmes & Wat­son,”

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In the rare mo­ments when the mys­tery spoof “Holmes & Wat­son” clicks, the movie is like a cross be­tween a raunchy ’ 80s com­edy and a Daffy Duck car­toon. As su­per- de­tec­tive Sher­lock Holmes, Will Fer­rell is just like Daffy, the over­con­fi­dent hero, blus­ter­ing his way into trou­ble. And as Dr. John Wat­son, John C. Reilly is Porky Pig, the long- suf­fer­ing side­kick. They’re a win­ning pair of losers.

But while Fer­rell and Reilly’s Daffy and Porky rou­tine is good for a few chuck­les, it’s likely to dis­ap­point fans of the more sidesplit­ting “nu mb skull bud­dies” dy­namic the duo per­fected in their hits “Tal­ladega Nights” and “Step Broth­ers.” Even the stars some­times look be­fud­dled about what they’re sup­posed to be do­ing, romp­ing around Vic­to­rian Lon­don in a par­ody that never fig­ures out what it’s mock­ing.

Writ­ten and di­rected by Etan Co­hen ( who pre­vi­ously made the Fer­rell ve­hi­cle “Get Hard”), “Holmes & Wat­son” starts with Arthur Co­nan Doyle’s mas­ter sleuth as a boy, learn­ing to sup­press his feel­ings so the bul­lies at school won’t get to him.

That odd pro­logue — not that funny, not that rel­e­vant to the plot — is the first big sign of trou­ble for “Holmes & Wat­son.” Co­hen and Fer­rell ( who co- pro­duced the pic­ture) ap­par­ently wanted their Holmes to be as bril­liant as Doyle’s, while still let­ting the star play to one of his strengths: act­ing like an over­grown child. Their so­lu­tion? Make Holmes so emo­tion­ally stunted that he’s kind of a drip to be around.

Fast- for­ward to the early 1900s, and Sher­lock Holmes and his best friend, Dr. Wat­son, are two of the most fa­mous peo­ple in England, thanks to their long bat­tle of wits with crim­i­nal ge­nius pro­fes­sor James Mo­ri­arty. But then Mo­ri­arty es­capes jus­tice and threat­ens to kill the queen, putting the crime fight­ers’ rep­u­ta­tion at risk.

Ralph Fi­ennes plays Mo­ri­arty, in one of the movie’s many im­pres­sively cast sup­port­ing turns. “Holmes & Wat­son” also has Kelly Macdon­ald as the land­lady/ ser­vant Mrs. Hud­son, Hugh Lau­rie as Sher­lock’s brother, My­croft, Rob Bry­don as In­spec­tor Lestrade, Steve Coogan as a shady on­earmed tat­too artist and Re­becca Hall as a vis­it­ing Amer­i­can doc­tor who be­witches Wat­son.

Co­hen and com­pany play around with the clas­sic Holmes mythol­ogy. One of the more zingy re­cur­ring gags has Sher­lock and Wat­son ca­su­ally of­fer­ing each other heroin and co­caine, riff­ing on Holmes’ fre­quent drug use in Doyle’s sto­ries. One of the flat­ter bits has the hero try­ing out a bunch of dif­fer­ent hats from scene to scene, look­ing for the one that will become his trade­mark.

Oth­er­wise, “Holmes & Wat­son” plays fast and loose with the source ma­te­rial, es­pe­cially when it comes to his­tor­i­cal con­text. Some of the anachro­nisms are just meant to be jokes, like the he­roes us­ing 100- year- old tech­nol­ogy to take self­ies and send drunken sexts. Oth­ers are lazier, like putting the Ti­tanic into a story with Queen Vic­to­ria, who died a decade be­fore that ship was built.

True, it’s silly to nit­pick the time­line in a Will Fer­rell com­edy. But that lit­tle goof speaks to a larger slack­ness. Co­hen and his cast don’t com­mit them­selves to mak­ing fun of any­thing spe­cific about Sher­lock Holmes or the early 1900s; in­stead, they just gen­er­ally have a go at any­thing old- timey ( like the way Reilly’s Wat­son pro­nounces the name of that ex­otic in­sect “the mos- kwitto”).

Be­cause of the tal­ent in­volved, ev­ery now and then “Holmes & Wat­son” hits on some­thing bizarre ly in­spired: like Wat­son and his love in­ter­est get­ting sex­u­ally aroused while rub­bing their hands over a gunk- cov­ered corpse; or Holmes us­ing his de­duc­tive skills to fig­ure out where to aim while re­liev­ing him­self in an al­ley.

But too many of the movie’s gags land with a thud. An ex­tended dig at Pres­i­dent Trump comes off as smug. An Alan Menken- penned mu­si­cal num­ber is more clunky than mag­i­cal. Mul­ti­ple smutty scenes never build up any good scat­o­log­i­cal mo­men­tum be­cause the pic­ture’s rated PG- 13.

“Holmes & Wat­son” is more of a well- mean­ing mis­fire than a to­tal train wreck. It’s frus­trat­ing mainly be­cause all of th­ese folks can do much bet­ter. They can be a lot Daffier.

“Holmes & Wat­son,” a Columbia Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG- 13 for crass hu­mor and sex­ual talk. Run­ning time: 89 min­utes.

“Bird Box”

There’s loads of prom­ise in “Bird Box.”

Start with a killer cast, head­lined by Sandra Bul­lock, and fea­tur­ing John Malkovich, Jacki Weaver, Tre­vante Rhodes, Sarah Paul­son, Danielle Macdon­ald, Lil Rel How­ery and Tom Hol­lan­der in sup­port­ing roles. Drop them into a story adapted by Eric Heis­serer, the Os­carnom­i­nated screen­writer of the brainy sci- fi film “Ar­rival.”

Stir in a high- con­cept plot, in­spired by Josh Maler­man’s 2014 novel about a post- apoc­a­lyp­tic world in which peo­ple must nav­i­gate its ter­rors blind, lest they so much as look at in­va­sive en­ti­ties with the power to take on the form of one’s deep­est fears. As a premise — which as­sumes that the sense of sight could open the door to ac­cel­er­ated madness and sui­cide — it has echoes of the mas­ter­ful sus­pense thriller “A Quiet Place,” in which the slight­est sound could be deadly.

But as th­ese aus­pi­cious in­gre­di­ents come to­gether un­der film­maker Su­sanne Bier, the Dan­ish di­rec­tor of the Os­car- win­ning “In a Bet­ter World,” the dish never quite jells. The film es­sen­tially be­gins at its climax, and then back­tracks, via flash­back, to the on­set of the cri­sis, hop­ping for­ward and back re­peat­edly over a fiveyear gap. This has the ef­fect of de­stroy­ing mo­men­tum.

In the very first scene, we meet Bul­lock’s Malo­rie as she pre­pares to guide two small chil­dren, known only as Boy and Girl ( Ju­lian Ed­wards and Vivien Lyra Blair), down a river in a small boat — with blind­folds on. It’s a dan­ger­ous jour­ney, yes; the river con­tains rapids. But it’s not as dan­ger­ous as open­ing their eyes.

To ex­plain why, “Bird Box” must go back five years to the ar­rival of the threat, which we never quite see, ex­cept as shad­ows and a kind of static “wind” that lifts fallen leaves off the ground. Malo­rie, who is preg­nant, finds shel­ter with a small band of sur­vivors, who have holed up in a house with the win­dows blacked out.

Th­ese scenes are among the film’s most in­ter­est­ing and sus­pense­ful, al­though Heis­serer’s script some­times in­cludes bizarre tonal shifts. One scene in which the group makes a run to a gro­cery store for sup­plies — driv­ing a car with the win­dows painted over, guided only by GPS and the ve­hi­cle’s prox­im­ity sen­sor — is ac­tu­ally rather funny, as the car’s tires roll over and crush the skulls of de­ceased vic­tims ly­ing in the street.

It’s treated as a mor­bid joke, but it doesn’t re­ally mesh with the rest of the film, which oth­er­wise plays the dread straight, not for laughs.

There are cer­tain plea­sures here, mostly in the cast of char­ac­ters. Malkovich’s mis­an­thropic ego­ist is chief among them. And Bul­lock makes for a fierce and re­lat­able Mama Bear.

But as for ten­sion, there’s pre­cious lit­tle. “Bird Box” ( which takes its name from the abil­ity of birds to sense the pres­ence of the film’s crea­tures) never re­ally makes us feel the story’s stakes. Un­like “A Quiet Place,” which also mixed fear with a med­i­ta­tion on the mean­ing of fam­ily, this story of sur­vival — with one fewer sense than the five God gave us — ul­ti­mately re­mains an in­tel­lec­tual ex­er­cise, not an emo­tional one.

“Bird Box,” a Net­flix re­lease, is rated R for crude lan­guage and brief sex­u­al­ity. Run­ning time: 124 min­utes. ★ ½


Sandra Bul­lock stars in the Net­flix film “Bird Box.”

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