Holmes & Watson
dir-scr Etan Cohen
prd Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jimmy Miller, Clayton Townsend
with Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, Ralph Fiennes, Kelly Macdonald, Rob Brydon, Rebecca Hall, Lauren Lapkus, Pam Ferris, Steve Coogan, Hugh Laurie, Noah Jupe, Kieran O'Brien
release US 25.Dec.18, UK 26.Dec.18
18/US Columbia 1h30
Holmes & Watson
Royal tomfoolery: Reilly, Ferris and Ferrell

fiennes macdonald hall
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Holmes & Watson There are plenty of opportunities for knowing silliness and sharp spoofery in this Sherlock Holmes comedy, but writer-director Etan Cohen only includes about a third of the required gags, and he seems to have shot it over a lunchbreak during the making of Stan & Ollie. The story is dull, and many extended jokes never find a punchline. But undemanding audiences will chuckle, especially if they're inebriated.

In 1881 London, Holmes (Ferrell) is the toast of the town, solving murders with his sidekick Watson (Reilly). They live together with housekeeper Mrs Hudson (Macdonald), and are now on the outs because Inspector Lestrade (Brydon) thinks they have let arch-criminal Moriarty (Fiennes) go free just as someone has threatened to kill Queen Victoria (Ferris). As they set about solving this new mystery, two American visitors (Hall and Lapkus) further complicate things, as does a one-armed tattoo artist (Coogan) and Sherlock's brainy brother Mycroft (Laurie).

The odd joke hits its mark, eliciting a genuine laugh. But most of the comedy is brashly broad, including dopey slapstick, corny innuendo and hamfisted attempts to poke fun at the present day (easy targets from selfies to Trump). Thankfully, even though the vast majority of the humour merely generates a groan or, worse yet, nothing at all, the cast is amiable enough to make the silliness almost watchable. While camping it up ludicrously, everyone keeps a dead-straight face, and the emphasis in the plot is on the soft-hearted bromance rather than the twisty whodunit.

Ferrell and Reilly convey their affection for each other even while putting on ridiculous British accents and acting like buffoons. They also manage to wrench a wry smile out of even the most painfully concocted joke, acting as if they are honestly surprised that this is so resolutely unfunny. This generates enough good will to just about carry the audience through, even if we don't need another movie about such a well worn figure as Sherlock Holmes.

Other cast members basically just bluster around the edges, trying to get a moment of screen time. Hall lends some class to the nuttiness, while Fiennes works to maintain an air of airiness. Ferris and Coogan are great sports, clearly enjoying the shenanigans. And a brief cameo at the very end earns a guffaw simply for how boldly stupid it is. Filmgoers who love gags about urination, masturbation and vomiting will of course love it. Everyone else should perhaps steer clear.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 28.Dec.18

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