Thursday, January 3, 2019

It Came From The Cineplex: Holmes And Watson

Holmes And Watson was written and directed by Etan Cohen.

Surprisingly, Cohen is actually capable of doing good work, as he previously wrote It's Like, You Know, Idiocracy (with Mike Judge), Tropic Thunder, Men In Black 3 (which I liked quite a bit). He wrote and directed Get Hard. Some of those were decent movies, so I have no idea what the hell happened here.


Congratulations, Sony, you've done it again!

It's been another banner year for my former employer's movie division. While they did somehow manage to release a couple of actual box office hits this year with Venom and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, they managed to squander that goodwill by releasing bombs like The Girl In The Spider's Web, Alpha, Sicario: Day Of The Soldado, Superfly and their crowning achievement, Slender Man.

Keep pumping out those hits, Tony Vinciquerra!

Believe it or not, Holmes And Watson was first announced wayyyyy back in 2008. Before the Dark Times. Before the Empire. At that time Sacha Baron Cohen was cast as Holmes, with Will Farrell playing Watson. The film sat in Development Hell for years, until it was finally revived in 2016. 

Yep, you read that right. They had TEN GODDAMNED YEARS to work on this film, and this was the best they could manage. Take a bow, everyone involved!

In 2016, Will Farrell and John C. Reilly were cast as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively. This is the fourth collaboration between the two, as they previously starred in Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. I dunno, maybe it's time these two dissolved their unholy union before it's too late.

I like John C. Reilly quite a bit, and he's shown in the past he's capable of more than just comedy. I am not a fan of Will Farrell at all though. In fact the only movie I can stomach him in is Elf. He should have called it a day after that one.

A couple weeks ago I note that according to some reports, Holmes And Watson was so bad that audiences nationwide were walking out on the film en masse

Rather than take this as a warning, I was oddly intrigued. I've never walked out on a movie in my life. I've been tempted to once or twice (I'm lookin' at you, Transformers: Age Of Extinction), but I've never actually done it.

I was curious to see just how bad Holmes And Watson was, and how it could possibly cause people to flee the theater. So curious in fact, that I went to see it just to find out. That's right, guys— I took a bullet for you all, and you owe me. Big time.

So was it as bad as everyone's saying? In a word, no. I'm not sure what all the hubbub was about. It wasn't THAT bad. Don't get me wrong here though— the fact that it didn't cause me to walk out and demand my money back doesn't mean it was actually good. Gods no. 

There's not one laugh to be found in a single frame of the film. The "jokes" thud to the ground like sacks of sour laundry, as none of them landed. In fact I spent a good deal of the run time wondering if many of the lines were actually supposed to be jokes or not. I honestly couldn't tell. By the end I was sure the film had been mislabeled as a comedy.

It was perversely fascinating to watch a movie fail so completely in every measurable sense.

Supposedly there's some sort of confusion as to how the movie actually starts. Here in the States it begins with a young Holmes meeting an equally youthful Watson at boarding school. But audiences elsewhere in the world claim the film starts with the characters as adults, as Watson jumps off a roof and lands on one of Holmes' prize plants or something.

Apparently the producers released two different cuts of the film one for America and the other for Europe. Why they'd do this isn't clear, but it's a perfect example of the slapdash attitude that permeates the entire production.

Jesus Christ, what the hell happened to the art of film comedy? Hollywood used to produce comedies by the bushel, particularly in the 1980s when I grew up. And they were funny, too! Compare that to today. There're scant few actual comedies to be found in the cineplex at all, and of those, few if any are the least bit humorous. 


Has SJW Outrage Culture whined comedies out of existence? Or did Hollywood simply forget how to make a funny movie? I wish I knew the answer.

Not surprisingly, so far Holmes And Watson's only been able to scrape up a measly $27 million worldwide against its $43 million budget. That officially makes it a box office bomb as well as a critical flop.

SPOILERS, I GUESS.


The Plot:
Young Sherlock Holmes is sent to boarding school, where he's befriended by John Watson, the janitor's son. When he's taunted by the other kids, Holmes vows to purge his emotions and devote his life to learning. 


Years later, Holmes is the world's best and most celebrated detective, as he and his partner Dr. Watson solve crime after crime. There's some tension though, as Watson resents the fact that all the attention is focused on Holmes, rather than the both of them.

When Professor James Moriarty is tried for his crimes, Holmes bursts into the courtroom and declares the villain is an impostor and lets him go, much to Inspector Lestrade's chagrin. Holmes says the real Moriarty is on his way to the United States.

Later that day, Queen Victoria hosts a surprise party for Holmes. A body falls out of his cake (?), along with a note from Moriarty claiming that the Queen will die in two days. The Queen then orders Holmes to find her would-be killer.

There's a bunch of plot twists and unfunny comedy, and Holmes eventually deduces that his housekeeper Mrs. Hudson is actually Moriarty's daughter. He tracks her to the Titanic, where she's planted a bomb that will destroy the ship and kill the Queen, who's on board for reasons.

They find the bomb, and Watson tosses it out a porthole. It lands in the boat of Mrs. Hudson, who was floating nearby to watch the ship sink. The bomb explodes, killing her. Ha, I guess?

The Queen congratulates Holmes, and amazingly, he tells her it was Watson who saved her. Holmes then alters their sign at 221b Baker Street, adding Watson's name as a co-detective.

Cut to Wyoming, where Moriarty's hiding in an Old West saloon. He looks across the bar and sees Holmes and Watson eyeing him.

Note: I just realized this brief synopsis makes the film sound about a hundred times more interesting than it really is. Don't be fooled by it.

Thoughts:
• There's really not a lot to say here, so this'll be brief.


After the film was over, my Movie-Going Pal asked me if it was worse than The Happytime Murders, 2018's other dire "comedy." Hmm. That's a very good question. They're both so bad, it's hard to decide.

After careful consideration, I'm gonna say Happytime was worse. At the very least, Holmes And Watson has actual jokes in it. None of them are the least bit funny, but they're there. That's more than I can say for The Happytime Murders. The creators of that film were so busy trying to be shocking and offensive that they forgot to write any jokes!

• The film clocks in at a mercifully brisk ninety minutes. Unfortunately it felt more like four and a half hours.

• The movie goes to great pains to show us that Farrell's Holmes possesses the most brilliant deductive mind in the world. In fact, whenever he enters a crime scene, we see even see those "superimposed diagrams" and such that were introduced in the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies.

Annnnnnd then in the very next scene this Holmes will do or say something so monumentally stupid it's as if he's brain damaged.

So which is it, movie? Is he a genius or a moron? He can't be both! Maybe, just maybe they were trying to show he's kind of a savant? That he's incredibly intelligent, but socially inept? Eh, who am I kidding? This movie's nowhere near that clever.


• Most of the film's "humor" consists of anachronistic jokes, implying that Holmes & Watson originated early versions of many of our modern customs and conventions. 

For example, when Watson meets Queen Victoria, he drags out a large camera on a tripod, asking if he can take a photo of the two of them. When the Queen awkwardly asks who'll take the photo, Watson says, "I will. I will take the photo, but I'll also be in it. It's like a 'self photo."

GET IT? DO YOU GET IT? HE'S TALKING ABOUT A SELFIE, ONLY IT'S THE OLDEN DAYS! GET IT?

Watson also originates "drunk telegraphing" and "dick pics." Note that because it's the late 1800s, he can't actually send a photo of his dick, so he has the telegraph operator describe it to the message (I think).


There's also a running gag about how all Americans carry guns, and fire them at the slightest provocation.. And oddly enough, the film even takes an awkward potshot at the current administration. Dr. Grace Hart, Holmes' love interest, brags that America's system of democracy "prevents any trumped-up charlatans from being elected and running the country." Sigh...

Oh, and there're an inordinate number of scenes in which people get hit in the face. Ha, I guess?
If all that sounds like your kind of humor, then you'll likely enjoy the film. If not, well...

• The third act concerns Holmes and Watson foiling a bomb plot aboard the Titanic. I realize it's pointless to nitpick a stupid "comedy" like this, but as I sat there in the theater I thought there was no way that could possibly happen. Sherlock Holmes lived in the 1880s, and the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. Sloppy!


Afterwards I did a little googling, and discovered it's possible after all. Arthur Conan Doyle's last Holmes story, titled His Last Bow, was set in 1914. So the Titanic plotline is entirely feasible. 

OK, so they did one thing right.

Holmes And Watson is a dire, unfunny comedy that's so devoid of laughs it's actually fascinating to watch. It's not the worst movie of the year as many critics are saying, but lordy it's close. I thought long and hard about what to grade it, coming dangerously close to giving it a D+. That's what I graded The Happytime Murders though, and poor as this film is, it's nowhere near as bad as that dumpster fire. So since it's the holiday season (sort of), I'm gonna be generous and give it a C-. Don't let that encourage you though stay far, far away from it.

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