Have you ever, even for once, curious about how does a movie that scores 0% in Rotten Tomatoes look like? I definitely had. While it’s exciting to walk into a movie with a high Tomatometer score like Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), I discovered that there is a burning curiosity within me for films that can achieve a flat-out 0% ‘rotten’ score, even for a short period of time. And it was that curiosity, together with the lack of favorable movies to be seen at that particular weekend, which brought me to the doorstep of the cinema screening Holmes & Watson.
As a short disclaimer, I had barely glimpsed through the title of an article stating the 0% achievement of Holmes & Watson, and to stay true to an Addict’s spirit, no review had been scrutinized in detail before the consumption of Holmes & Watson, which had lead to this review. With that said, as of the time of writing, I am not aware of the current score of the film in Rotten Tomatoes. I truly hope that it improves.
If the title doesn’t give you strong enough of a hint, the film follows the journey (a parody, that is) of the famous crime investigator Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) and his ever so loyal companion Dr Watson (John C.Reilly) in exposing a mysterious threat to the royal castle of England. Being a film associated with Will Ferrell, you can be rest assured that the crimes in London would not be solved in flawless, intelligent ways as you would usually expect from Sherlock. It’s quite the opposite, actually.
With such a bad score wandering around in my head, it’s hard not to have skepticism towards Holmes & Watson, no matter how minimal it may be. So, there goes this little Sherlock Holmes in me, trying to search high and low in the film for what might be the factor that contributed to the film’s humiliating score. The establishing scenes of the movie brought together a certain degree of annoyance when a high profile case was already ongoing, but Holmes and Watson were literally playing adult hide and seek in their office. Well, it’s just plain Will Ferrell, and I didn’t think that ring any alarm.
Consequently, during the ongoing of that high profile court hearing, Holmes and Watson churned out about more than a hundred metaphors to link the accused with excessive masturbation. This was perhaps to avoid being too direct, that it would be interpreted as being vulgar by the court audience. At that time, I thought that the film’s dirty humor was a little but too far fetched. To come into a conclusion whether a person is involved in a murder based on his sexual habit will always sound dumb, but fortunately, that was the last of it. Still, you’ll be making a mistake for thinking that after the first act, the rest of the film will repent and refrain from banking on dirty humor anymore. That, couldn’t be even further from truth, as the film continues to taunt the audience to approach its script with an unclean mind, and it is not ashamed about it.
That is perhaps my first clue as to why Holmes & Watson got such a disaster of rating everywhere: off-color humor. The lewd jokes can be as decent as an awkward first kiss that is thought to be superbly pulled-off (Remember The Rock’s kissing scene in Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle?) to as far as rubbing someone’s nipple during an autopsy session. And everything else in between. Deep down, I felt that those scenes could potentially be offending, just that I did not know exactly how does it going to do that. Or who was it going to offend. It is an offensive scene with a poorly identified group of the possibly-offended. Yeah, this is complicated, but that feeling was undeniable.
You quickly ask, was I offended? No, not at all. Instead, I found such jokes to carry a huge factor of surprise, because it just come in too quickly. I will even admit, I was duly entertained. Maybe that is the beauty of putting a low or no expectation towards a movie. I didn’t expect the film to do anything. If it makes me laugh, it’s a bonus.
As the film’s narrative sailed through, my little Sherlock in me began to pinpoint another possible element that may invite the wrath of critics. A few of the historical figures and materials presented in the film doesn’t quite co-exist well with the film’s era, it felt wrong even before I made a confirmation check with my dear buddy Google. For instance, Einstein made a cameo in the plot, but taking into account that the story took place in 1881, Einstein was still possibly roaming around in Germany at best. As a little kid (he was born in 1879). And the film introduced Titanic into the events of the plot. A quick Google check found that the unfortunate ship was not built until the 1900’s. What caused me to scratch my head real hard, was perhaps the fact that those clueless inclusions into the plot doesn’t seem to steer the direction of the story in any significant way. Even without Einstein and Titanic, I reckon that the plot would do just fine.
As careless as those decisions were, I was surprised, that despite the movie being generally a mess, the plot actually does carry certain weight. It has a fairly clear introduction to the characters and their relationships with each other. It progressed in a somewhat orderly manner when Holmes and his buddy looked for clues of the imminent threat. Yes, they will do stupid things at times, sometimes even beyond what you can imagine, but I suggest that it is just part of the package of Holmes & Watson.
The plot successfully put mystery on the table, unopened, unperturbed by the antics of Holmes and co, as it went on to build reasonable suspense until the climax of the film. Yet sometimes, you can possibly end up being too carried away with the acts of Ferrell and Reilly that you forgot that a mysterious criminal is still on the loose and they are yet to sniff out his/her identity. If I have one major complain about the plot, it definitely has to be the pace of the final resolve, which I deem happened too quickly and ended the movie in an abrupt manner.
Again, you have heard me mentioning this, but having been expecting the story to be a total disaster and all over the place, the capability of Holmes & Watson to deliver the story in what I regard as acceptable for its genre is a pleasant surprise. Just don’t expect a painstakingly crafted plot like Inception or Dunkirk to match the intelligence of “Sherlock Holmes”, and you’re off for a good start.
Of course, another major deal-breaker boils down to whether you fancy the style of work of Ferrell or Reilly, or otherwise. If you hate Will Ferrell or what he always does on set, please, do yourself a service. Stay away from Holmes & Watson. Will Ferrell will be just Will Ferrell in the film. He still can be found parading around shamelessly in the most cringe-worthy of outfits. He will still shout and scream at the most dumb moments as if he is wearing a hearing aid device that goes out of battery. And rest assured that there will be plenty of slapstick moments, and jokes hurled towards his ineptitude and lack of manhood.
If you really have to put both of them in a fight, I am convinced that it was John C. Reilly who successfully stole the show numerous times in the film. Maybe, it was due to his no holds barred take on Dr Watson in most of the scenes. Or maybe it was that hugely divisive script for his character. Or it could be a mixture of both. He somehow portrayed as Dr Watson like it was his last collaboration with Ferrell, and the outcome in nothing short of stomach-ache inducing. I can’t help but to burst out laughing sometimes.
Addict Verdict, AV:
Holmes & Watson is simply a loose cannon, albeit a strange one. It fires humor away at will, some of it feels outright dumb, which stays true to Will Ferrell’s spirit. The others felt surprisingly hilarious, but you will be off wandering if you’re guilty laughing, because either it’s too obscene, or you feel that it’s rather offensive in some unknown ways. Either way, the film is nudging you to approach the script with a less clean mind, and for those who do, the experience can be vastly different. If you wanna enjoy Holmes & Watson, just keep telling yourself that it’s a film which has been rated 0% at Rotten Tomatoes, for a hundred times, before stepping into the cinema. That will give you the best experience-per-buck. If, you have to spend it on Holmes & Watson at all, for some reason.–The Film Addict
*This review was originally published on The Film Addict