Holmes and Watson
Updated: Jul 11, 2021
Will Ferrell has made a career out of playing selfish egomaniacs who are not nearly as brilliant as they think they are. Seeing that arrogance punctured by his own stupidity can be pretty funny. His newest display of male ignorance is Holmes and Watson, a comedic take on the famous characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Ferrell plays Sherlock as an emotionless buffoon. John C. Reilly plays Dr. Watson as a devoted sycophant. Reilly is amusing, though Ferrell’s shtick gets old rather quickly. The occasional joke lands, but the movie is neither smart enough nor stupid enough to be funny.
The story involves Sherlock’s attempts to prevent Moriarty from killing the Queen, but it is the usual irrelevant nonsense. I love irrelevant nonsense as much as the next guy, however this particular plot is not very entertaining. The screenplay (by director Etan Cohen) does not use it to critique the idea of Sherlock Holmes or even to lovingly poke at him. It just becomes a silly Will Ferrell comedy where he happens to play him. Most of the gags have little to do with the setting or characters. The worst ones (such as a scene featuring a bunch of euphemisms for masturbation or someone who cannot stop vomiting) feel like they were dropped in to fill out the run time (it is 86 minutes without the end credits). There is no momentum or build. Holmes and Watson does not conclude as much as just stop.
Ferrell surrounds himself with talented actors to better sell the silliness. First is John C. Reilly, who was so funny in Ferrell’s Talladega Nights and Step Brothers that I would wish he exclusively made these kinds of movies if he was not equally excellent in dramatic roles. He takes his character very seriously, which makes his ridiculous moments even funnier. Rebecca Hall is also good as a female doctor (gasp!) who takes a liking to Watson. She has some lines that could have been cringe-inducing in other hands, yet somehow works coming from her. There are roles for Ralph Fiennes, Rob Brydon, Kelly Macdonald, Lauren Lapkus, Steve Coogan and Hugh Laurie. They rarely get anything interesting to do, but at least the thought was there.
I suppose what disappoints me the most about Holmes and Watson is that it feels like a waste of an opportunity to do something slightly different with Ferrell’s persona. He turned Sherlock Holmes into one of his characters instead of trying to adapt himself to a goofier version of Sherlock Holmes. It comes off as lazy.
That being said, this is 100% what I expected it would be when I heard the phrase “Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.” It is stupid and juvenile, with a few clever jokes thrown in for good measure. If that sounds promising, you will probably enjoy it. His formula is hit or miss with me. Holmes and Watson missed my funny bone far more than it hit it. While it is nice to see the stars team up again, their latest does not reach the heights of epic dumbness their previous outings did.
2 out of 5
Will Ferrell as Holmes
John C. Reilly as Watson
Rebecca Hall as Dr. Grace Hart
Lauren Lapkus as Millie
Rob Brydon as Inspector Lestrade
Ralph Fiennes as Moriarty
Kelly Macdonald as Mrs. Hudson
Pam Ferris as Queen Victoria
Directed and written by Etan Cohen