by Philip Price
Director: Etan Cohen
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly & Ralph Fiennes
Runtime: 1 hour & 30 minutes
If this were made in 2007, in between ‘Talladega Nights’ and “Step Brothers,” that Hugh Laurie cameo would have either been Vince Vaughn or Ben Stiller and it would have been all the better for it. Still, even if “Holmes & Watson” were to come out some 11 years ago it wouldn’t have been directed by Adam McKay (the director of those aforementioned Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly collaborations) and that is the chief issue with this rushed and lifeless excursion into a premise that never takes off; a skit that should have been cut not because of a lack of time, but because the premise wasn’t near substantial enough to support the time it’s given.
As someone who turned 16 in 2003 and already adored Ferrell due to his ‘SNL’ performances it was like seeing the rest of the world discover what I already knew that year when he delivered the one-two punch of “Old School” and “Elf” (I realize the former wasn’t immediately seen as a success, but it’s long since become a cult favorite). In the years that followed, Ferrell would go on to become a comedy titan thanks in large part to his collaborations with McKay - each of which are exceptional in their own right - but if “Holmes & Watson” signifies anything it is the end of an era; the final nail in the coffin that began being built a few years back with the likes of “Get Hard” and “Daddy’s Home,” and continued through to last year with “The House” and a ‘Daddy’s Home’ sequel. In 2009, something like “Land of the Lost” was the exception, not the rule, but Ferrell has turned such expectations on their head and now we expect nothing less than cheap comedy from a guy who was once the king of being smart and cutting by being dumb and funny. Ferrell isn’t the only one who has fallen prey to this plague of unfunny-friends in his “Frat Pack” have also had an equally tough time adapting their comedy and careers to their age as Stiller made “Zoolander 2,” Vaughn and Owen Wilson re-teamed for “The Internship,” and who knows where Luke Wilson has been for the last decade, but Ferrell’s fall-for one reason or another-hurts a little more.
“Holmes & Watson” is not a good movie and considering how good we know Ferrell and Reilly can be together “Holmes & Watson” is even more disappointing, but it’s not the out and out atrocity that’s causing hordes of walk-outs either. It has less than a handful of inspired comedic moments in a script where the same joke is repeated scene after scene to the same degree of effectiveness: little to none. A musical number that should have gone bigger and a zinger of a cameo, both near the end of the film, are easily the best things writer/director Etan Cohen’s film has to offer. So, is “Holmes & Watson” a good movie? No. Was I ever bored to the point I didn’t continue to hold out hope things might get better? No, not until the end came and I realized hope for Ferrell might forever be lost. At least until he gets a little older and redeems himself critically with more serious-minded work only to then make a glorious return to comedy and is subsequently discovered by a new generation of fans where the likes of “Holmes & Watson” will have long been forgotten and is never brought up again.