While watching Holmes& Watson, I was trying to come up with a suitable analogy to best describe this movie; what’s one thing that has such immense talent surrounding it, was very fun to produce and create, but turned out to be an impressive waste of everyone’s time and a steaming pile of dog turd? I still can’t think of anything that can capture the complete disappointment I felt while watching one of the most beloved comedic duos of modern comedy, wasted by such a dated premise, a complete train-wreck of a script, and a miserable, shameful attempt at comedy.
First of all, I get why this movie exists; Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly obviously loved making this movie, and this movie was in development hell since 2008 (with probably several millions wasted on it before it even began shooting), so at least finishing and releasing it would bring back some of that investment. What I don’t get—what baffled me while watching this movie—is the how; how did this movie turn out so bad? Sure, when this movie was conceived Sherlock was on the rise (you had Elementary and Sherlock dominating the TV charts, and the Guy Ritchie-Robert Downing Jr. movies were enjoying some buzz), but dated jokes are not the same as unfunny jokes, and if there’s one thing I’m certain of is that if this movie was released in 2008, it would still be a comedic disaster.
So, HOW did we go from Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, and Anchorman 2, to Holmes& Watson? How did we go from painfully funny comedies that were unrelenting and left you gasping for air, to this bullshit movie that has ZERO funny moments in it, besides a few awkward laughs? Well, there are many things that Holmes& Watson do wrong; the script is unbelievably bad—and not in a “it’s so bad it’s good” way—with the core premise of Holmes and Watson trying to solve one of Moriarty’s crimes before he murders the Queen, wasted on mundane and uninteresting situations that try to use Ferrell and Reilly’s chemistry to create comedy, but absolutely fail at every attempt; the writing is at best inoffensive and at worst an eye-rolling slog to get through; Ferrell and Reilly themselves are obviously having a blast, but do not give the performances we expect from them and end up screaming and goofying their way through the movie’s bad jokes and even worst physical comedy attempts; everyone else just showed up for a couple of days, shot their scenes, and left, obviously not giving a shit.
So, should we blame Etan Cohen, writer and director of this monstrosity? Well, you could since neither is adequate, but that only shines light on the creative problems with this movie; even then, you would be willfully ignoring the lackluster movies Will Ferrell made for the past 6 years and John C. Reilly’s impressive work and inclination towards indie ventures and not mainstream comedies. Furthermore, Etan Cohen is the man who wrote the criminally underrated Idiocracy and co-wrote the screenplay for Tropic Thunder, so he clearly understands comedy! Maybe then, this is just another tragic case of a studio wanting to get back its investment and hurried an unfinished script and a half-baked idea, but instead of an ordinary cast we got the long awaited cinematic re-union of Ferrell and Reilly.
What, then, came out of all this? Well, the studio made a loss, Holmes& Watson is regarded one of the worst movies of 2018—picking up 6 Razzie nominations—the obvious sequel bait that was thrown into the movie will probably never come to fruition, the perfect record of Ferrell and Reilly, now has a huge Holmes& Watson shaped scar, and we still eagerly await the A-list-actor-led, mainstream sketch-comedy that we used to get 10 years ago but has since been at best forgettable attempts, and at worst complete flops. Obviously, we all know the perfect analogy for this movie: Movie 43. Holmes& Watson is not as bad as that movie (or unintentionally funny), but it sure is as disappointing considering the immense amount of potential and talent available to those two productions.