Holmes & Watson isn’t so much a movie as a monsoon of limp, slimy jokes that plop to the ground like that storm of toads in Magnolia. The actors fidget and fumble through their lines like anxious hostages reading ransom demands off a cue card. Scenes don’t arrive on the screen fully realized, instead they crash like a smoking Volvo filled with test dummies. You’ve probably heard this movie is one of the worst atrocities ever chucked into a cinema, and it is. If that fact makes Holmes & Watson sound perversely tantalizing, let me give you a Surgeon General-level warning: This thing ain’t so bad it’s good, or even so bad it’s mildly compelling. No, this movie sucks deep-fried donkey ding-a-ling. Now, if you end up getting pelted with toads, that’s officially your fault.
What’s that? I still have to describe the plot?! Sweet Jesus in a briar patch, I don’t even know how to start. *Deep sigh* Here goes: Intrepid detective Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell, how could you??) and steadfast companion Dr. Watson (John C. Reilly, it’s just…painful) get reinvented as gibbering, ineffectual nincompoops who gain knowledge of a planned assassination of Queen Victoria (Pam Ferris) and must use what few wits they have to reveal the culprit. Among their list of suspects are the suavely sinister Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes…Ralph Fiennes!!!) and a duo of visiting doctors (Rebecca Hall and Lauren Lapkus).
That emaciated skeleton of a story mainly exists to support a saggy, moldering body of sight gags and aggressively unfunny riffs from Ferrell and Reilly. At one point, both forms of a bad comedy collide when the actors pick up horseshit and smear it all over each other. I couldn’t escape the thought: Oh, a copy of the script actually made it into the movie! Awkward, offensive hunks of the story drag endlessly, such as a lifeless bit about Watson’s inexplicable lust for Queen Victoria. It ain’t funny the first try, or the second. Or the tenth. Still, they keep going back to the same schtick with the reckless abandon of Wile E. Coyote mounting an Acme rocket.
Don’t get it twisted: I ain’t no stick in the mud, and I’ve enjoyed Ferrell and Reilly in the past. (The outtakes of Talladega Nights alone justify the rest of the movie.) Unfortunately, Holmes & Watson finds them flat and stale, even bored. There’s nothing worse than watching talented people sink in quicksand for 85 minutes, especially when you get the vibe of how aware they are of it. The biggest consolation is that the skilled people involved with Holmes & Watson will be funny again. They’ll make better movies. Hopefully soon, because I’ll need a palate cleanser after this disaster.