NEW YORK (CNS) — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective and his doctor sidekick are given a comedic makeover in “Holmes & Watson” (Columbia). A successful result, however, is far from elementary.
Will Farrell and John C. Reilly are, at first glance, an inspired choice to play Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, respectively, in a send-up of the manners and propriety of Victorian-era Britain.
But “Holmes & Watson” veers to the mindless, raucous, and exceedingly vulgar humor on display in the duo’s previous outings, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “Step Brothers,” placing this film out-of-bounds for most viewers.
Fans of the Conan Doyle stories will recognize only the names of the principal characters. Holmes is vain and insecure, taking cocaine like candy and wearing a red fez with the words, “Make England Great Again.” He and Watson have a bromance that veers uncomfortably at times into a genuine love affair. Holmes’ housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson (Kelly Macdonald), is a sassy flirt who entertains gentleman callers in the next room.
Hailed as the greatest detective in Britain, Holmes is feted on his birthday by Queen Victoria (Pam Ferris) at Buckingham Palace. A dead body tumbles out of the enormous cake, bearing an ominous note from Holmes’ arch enemy, Professor James Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes), threatening the monarch’s life.
Holmes must decide if this is the work of the real criminal mastermind (supposedly exiled to America), or an imposter. The chase is on for clues, beginning with an autopsy performed by Watson and a comely American doctor, Grace Hart (Rebecca Hall). As they lovingly scoop birthday cake from the corpse, “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers plays in the background, in a send-up of the iconic pottery-making scene in “Ghost.”
Holmes, meanwhile, is enchanted by Hart’s assistant, Millie (Lauren Lapkus), a mute who was raised by feral cats and has a mental age of 4.
Yes, “Holmes & Watson,” as written by Etan Cohen (who also directed), is that silly. It’s also ignorant of history. The climax occurs on board the RMS Titanic, where Queen Victoria hosts a reception. Never mind that the ocean liner’s maiden voyage was in 1912, 11 years after the monarch’s death.
The film contains recurring crude sexual language and bathroom humor, including references to masturbation, drug references, comic violence and occasional rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.
The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103