Holmes & Watson was originally envisioned to star Sacha Baron Cohen alongside Will Ferrell but after years in development hell, a lot can change on the way to the big screen. Unfortunately, the one thing that shouldn’t – for a comedy – is the hilarity and alas it seems that Etan Cohen’s parody of two of literature’s greatest characters must have lost its gags with its original star.
What should have been a joyful reunion of Step Brothers and Talladega Nights duo Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly is instead a flabbergastingly bad send up that, in spite of some Donald Trump jabs, feels remarkably dated (Titanic and Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes parodies? Really?) and frighteningly unfunny. The plot, such as it is, falls face first at every which end and even some sight gags (a selfie joke) that, in the hands of say Aardman, would muster a smile, instead just feel entirely lifeless. The script just is not funny and any twists and turns the story musters, fails to get any energy going or build any momentum. There is something seriously cringey about the whole endeavour and it is even worse when you consider the calibre amassed for it.
This is the film’s biggest sin in fact – how it squanders such a cast! How on earth a film can boast so much talent and end up this bad is a case even Holmes could not crack. There are genuinely more laughs in the outings of Basil Rathbone, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch than can be found here. Despite their past chemistry, Ferrell and Reilly feel uncomfortable together for the first time and are left wailing and flailing (at one point literally) in search of humour. The female characters portrayed by Rebecca Hall, Pam Ferris and Kelly Macdonald are randomly inserted in the plot and little more than flypaper for “how sexist past generations were” gags (the likes of which you have seen done a thousand times before). Steve Coogan is criminally wasted in a virtual cameo as a one-armed tattooist (in arguably the films best scene), while the under appreciated comic ability of Ralph Fiennes is ignored (much like he is in general). Heck, Rob Brydon hardly even gets to utter a sentence, let alone a funny one and in spite of a range of big cameos (from movie stars to a WWE wrestler) and a music number by Alan Menken, nobody comes out of this with anything to show for it.
The only saving grace are some genuinely excellent sets and costumes which capture the period detail spot on and would be right at home in a pure Holmes story. Such hard work would shine further, were it not for the inappropriate music accompanying the visuals and the way they are used as mere dressing for such an empty script and story.
Increasingly, Homes & Watson is becoming known as the movie Netflix turned down and this year’s Golden Raspberry frontrunner, yet this turkey somehow still manages to be worse than you ever possibly imagined.