Review – Clueless (“Holmes And Watson”)

Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly are today’s modern equivalent to Martin & Lewis. Both comics are blessed with rapid-fire wits and ad-libbing skills beyond that of mere mortal men. After their Step Brothers and Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, I’ve been hoping for another reunion, and (*groan* *cough*) here it is…


The Sherlock Holmes legend gets a skewering as we start with Holmes’ childhood and the beginnings of his vast intellect and lack of emotion. We then fast-forward to the adult Holmes & Watson (Ferrell & O’Reilly) of this movie. Brilliant Holmes is vain, narcissistic, and cock-sure, while his BFF, Dr. John Watson, is a brown-nosing wimp, wanting to please his master in all things. There’s also their ditzy Scottish house-keeper, Rose Hudson (Kelly Macdonald), a rather on-edge Inspector Lastrade (Rob Brydon), and her Royal Majesty, the Queen Victoria of England (Pam Ferris).

No sooner does Sherlock solve one case, thereby letting the infamous Professor Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) go free in the process, than he’s onto another… and it’s a doozie! During a birthday party, a dead body is discovered inside a cake with a note from Moriarty to Sherlock: solve this case or the Queen dies in four days! Holmes & Watson spring into action and investigate, meeting two visiting women from America, Dr. Grace Hart (Rebecca Hall) and her assistant, Millie (Lauren Lapkus), who thinks she’s a cat. Watson is smitten with this fellow doctor and, oddly enough, Holmes is all gaa-gaa for this mute cat-woman.

Anyway, their investigating leads to a boxing ring and a one-armed tattoo artist (Steve Coogan) working for Moriarty. But further clues, aided by Holmes’ smarter brother, Mycroft (Hugh Laurie in a cameo), leads to a sinister plot, a diabolical mix-up, and final show-down on the Titanic ocean liner. Now, one would think that, given the collaboration of Ferrell, O’Reilly, and producer Adam McKay who all did the impossibly funny Step Brothers, Ron Burgundy movies, and Talladega Nights, that this movie would be comedy gold, right? It isn’t.

This was written & directed by Etan Cohen, who gave us such bombs as Idiocracy and Men In Black 3, but also a terrific film like Get Hard. Let’s just say his track record ain’t the best. The source material has SUCH great potential as it deliciously parodies the Guy Richie/Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes films and does, on occasion, deliver some solid gags. Ferrel & O’Reilly ARE funny guys, there’s no doubt about that, but you can clearly tell they’re being held back by the constraints of the script and/or the director. This is a perfect example of a “wet spaghetti” movie; throwing a handful of jokes at a wall to see what sticks. Some do, many don’t and the sad part is, it’s Ferrell and O’Reilly not getting the laughs they should.

Yes, they are some very funny scenes (the boxing ring, the bees, the Queen), others that just fall flat and die (the vomiting scene, the park), and one truly LOL scene (a special cameo at the end). This isn’t McKay’s style of humor, with the comedy coming from the absurd situation, but a repetitive amount of unfunny crude bathroom humor and tired one-liners. To their credit, Ferrell & O’Reilly do what they can with the script, which probably would have been much better if directed/written by McKay. Coogan is great in his cameo, as is Laurie, and Hall is wonderful in her underwritten role.

As I’m writing this, it’s currently tracking 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. (OMG!) Now, I don’t want to say it’s the worst film I’ve seen this year, but it’s certainly not the best. It did have some genuine laughs peppered through the movie, but not enough to sustain the entire film, sad to say. Go at your own risk, people.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)
During the filming of Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks not only encouraged Gene Wilder to get his script about Sherlock Holmes on the screen, but to direct it, too! Taking the masters advice, he asked his co-stars, Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn, if they’d like to be in his very first written & directed movie. The rest, as they say, is history.

Based very loosely on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s deerstalker-capped sleuth, this wildly funny story is not about him, but about Sherlock’s younger other brother. No, not Mycroft, but Sigerson (Wilder). It’s 1891, and the games afoot in England! A precious document from Queen Victoria has been stolen from Lord Redcliff’s (John LeMesuiere) safe one night and instead of taking on the case, Holmes & Watson delegate it to his younger brother, Sigerson, who really hates him. He even calls him ‘Sheer Luck’ instead of Sherlock.

Sherlock passes the message on along with bespectacled Orville Sacker (Feldman), a man with eidetic memory, who happens to be a fan of Sigerson’s work. Soon they both meet a women named Bessie Bellwood (Kahn), but Holmes knows she’s a habitual liar and she reveals herself to be opera singer Jenny Hill, who’s being blackmailed. But little do they know that an assassin finds this out and reports it to sinister Professor Moriarty (Leo McKern)

After saving Hill’s life–twice–Sigerson fumes that his brother got all the credit in the newspaper. Interrogating Hill, Sigerson uses an unconventional method of seduction to find out that SHE stole the document from Lord Redcliff, who happens to be her father! But, being she’s a habitual liar, is she even telling the truth? More clues lead to opera singer Eduardo Gambetti (Dom DeLuise), who has made a deal with Moriarty to sell him the document on stage during his opera.
Sigerson and Sacker infiltrate the opera, posing as singers, and chaos ensues. Cue the chase scene, sword fights, and the inevitable twisty ending that comes with all Sherlock Holmes’ stories. Wilder, a noted comedian and actor in his own right, proved the man could write and direct as well. The story was a little disjointed and askew, true, but for a first-timer, it was damn funny and directed well. Wilder didn’t stop either, as he went on to write & direct others (The World’s Greatest Lover, The Woman in Red, and Haunted Honeymoon, to name a few).
Okay, so many of his later films weren’t exactly blockbusters, in fact, some of them were box office bombs, but his first one was the best. This movie is a fresh and comedic take on the whole Sherlock Holmes genre, if only seen through the eyes of his jealous brother, something that hadn’t been done before. For fun, check out Wilder’s sword play in the movie. In real life, he was a fencing champion in theater school and knew how to handle a blade. 

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