Far­rell and Reilly fol­low dull bro­mance rou­tine in ‘Holmes & Wat­son’

Cast: Will Fer­rell, John C. Reilly, Ralph Fi­ennes Di­rec­tor: Etan Co­hen 89 min­utes Rated PG-13 (crude sex­ual ma­te­rial, some vi­o­lence, lan­guage and drug ref­er­ences)

The Tribune (SLO) - - Ticket - BY BEN KENIGSBERG

In Arthur Co­nan Doyle’s orig­i­nal telling, Sher­lock Holmes in­dulged in mor­phine and co­caine be­cause the drugs of­fered him a break from “the dull rou­tine of ex­is­tence.” His mind, Dr. Wat­son re­calls him say­ing in “The Sign of Four” (1890), re­belled at “stag­na­tion.” Prob­lems, work and cryp­to­grams: Their in­spi­ra­tion would per­mit him to dis­pense with “ar­ti­fi­cial stim­u­lants.”

More laughs are all that would have been nec­es­sary to pre­vent the stag­na­tion of “Holmes & Wat­son”; as the movie stands, smug­gling in booze to dis­pel the sense of dull rou­tine could only help. Sony sneaked this par­ody into the­aters on Christ­mas with­out screen­ings for crit­ics, nor­mally ev­i­dence that the film in ques­tion is less than the work of a mas­ter­mind.

Still, a view­ing of the movie doesn’t quite solve the mys­tery of why the dis­trib­u­tor deep-sixed the lat­est chap­ter in an en­dur­ing part­ner­ship – not of Holmes and Wat­son, but of Will Fer­rell and John C. Reilly. True, the al­most Dadaist, ap­par­ently im­pro­vi­sa­tional ban­ter they brought to “Tal­ladega Nights: The Bal­lad of Ricky Bobby” and “Step Broth­ers” has been tem­pered this time by famil- iar­ity, the con­straints of the pe­riod set­ting and the need for the movie to fol­low the con­tours of a lack­lus­ter who­dunit.

But there is still in­ter­mit­tent joy to be found in their au­tum­nal bro­mance, which reaches apoth­e­o­sis here in a late­break­ing mu­si­cal duet from the show-tune veter­ans Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.

In this ver­sion of the story, writ­ten and di­rected by Etan Co­hen (who di­rected the much-worse “Get Hard”), Holmes (Fer­rell) and Wat­son (Reilly) are said to have met as school­boys after a young Holmes used his pow­ers of de­duc­tion to get their bul­ly­ing class­mates ex­pelled.

The re­la­tion­ship has grown so close that Holmes can pre­dict Wat­son’s moves at rock, paper, scis­sors and Bat­tle­ship with­out a game be­ing played. They bond over the du­bi­ous wis­dom of send­ing drunk tele­grams and the dif­fi­culty of find-- ing Holmes the proper hat. A “Make Eng­land Great Again” fez is among the re­jects.

Anachro­nisms give the movie its most ob­vi­ous yet most ef­fec­tive tar­gets – tar­gets hit more pal­pa­bly by the Brit play­ing an Amer­i­can than the Amer­i­cans play­ing Brits. Re­becca Hall turns up as Grace Hart, a doc­tor vis­it­ing from Bos­ton who through­out the movie rat­tles off signs of progress in the United States, from the gen­der pay gap (not ter- ri­ble for the time!) to the right to a trial by a “jury of white prop­erty-own­ing men.”

One of the bet­ter bits brings her and a smit­ten Wat­son to­gether to per­form an au­topsy, which turns into a re-en­act­ment of a fa­mous scene from “Ghost” with a cake-cov­ered corpse in­stead of pot­tery. Lau­ren Lap­kus, as Grace’s mute as­sis­tant, who is said to have been reared by cats, raises a few smiles as well, mostly with­out say­ing a word.

Com­pa­ra­bly, the men’s spar­ring, to say noth­ing of the “Week­end at Bernie’s” rou­tine they pull with the queen (Pam Fer­ris), looks more tired than usual, and the film­mak­ers haven’t re­motely fig­ured out how to use Ralph Fi­ennes – as ei­ther Holmes’ neme­sis Mo­ri­arty or a look-alike patsy – who ap­pears so in­fre­quently that he could just as well have been left on the cut­ting-room floor. In this con­text, it’s not re­ally a case worth crack­ing.

GILES KEYTE Co­lum­bia Pic­tures

John C. Reilly, left, and Will Fer­rell star in “Holmes & Wat­son.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.