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Movie Review: “Holmes & Watson”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 12/25/2018

Theatrical Release: 12/25/2018


Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) is the greatest detective in all of England, and there is only one man with an intellect that can rival Sherlock’s. Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) is a criminal mastermind that has given Sherlock a run for his money. Fortunately, Sherlock is not alone. He has his trusted sidekick and friend, Doctor John Watson (John C. Reilly), and there are few mysteries that the duo cannot solve.

Moriarty has been apprehended, and he is on trial for the many crimes he has committed. Sherlock, however, thinks the situation is more complicated than everyone believes. Sherlock thinks that Moriarty’s plan is unfolding exactly as the mastermind planned, and that the Queen’s life may be in danger. Together, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson must solve this mystery and stop their greatest intellectual adversary before any harm comes to the Queen of England.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Sherlock (+3pts)

Modern References (-5pts)

Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly (+6pts)

Conveniently Dumb (-5pts)

Modern Medicine (+2pts)

Moriarty (-5pts)


Pro: Sherlock (+3pts)

I thought this premise could work. The idea of Sherlock being played by Will Ferrell had the potential to make for some truly entertaining moments. I thought the filmmakers did a poor job of executing this premise, but there were some moments that I thought worked really well nonetheless. Some of these moments were scenes that made fun of the classic scenarios in which Sherlock calculates his way out of his situations.

We all know the scenes. Sherlock gets himself in a fight or difficult situation, then carefully calculates how everything will play out, as well as how he needs to respond. These scenes have been done really well in the past, and even though we know the stories are fiction, it is satisfying to see how accurate Sherlock’s predictions are, and it has made for some cool moments in other movies. These were scenes that the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies did so well, and it was the type of scene that I knew this movie would poke fun at. By having this version of Sherlock be less accurate with his predictions, the filmmakers were able to deliver some effective comedy. I knew the filmmakers would do this, but even then, I still found them pretty darn entertaining, which should tell you how well they worked.


Con: Modern References (-5pts)

I was worried about this when I saw the first trailer for the movie. The idea of playing these two characters comedically had me excited, but to have them drop references to modern culture did not make any sense. The references just felt forced, because there was no reason for the characters to make reference to them naturally, given the time period that the movie took place. Granted, I thought a couple of these references worked.

One that I thought worked was the spin cycle reference. I do not want to spoil the moment, so that is all I will say about it, but I actually enjoyed that one. Unfortunately, the spin cycle joke was the exception, not the rule. Despite the movie’s terrible reviews, the audience I was in was laughing throughout the movie’s duration, but most of the modern references fell flat—even to an audience that seemed to be enjoying the rest of the ridiculous comedy. To make this worse, the filmmakers had a lot of these kinds of jokes, and almost none of them worked.

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Pro: Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly (+6pts)

Full disclosure, I have always been a fan of these two and their style of comedy. I definitely am not alone, because despite the horrendous reviews and ratings that this movie has received, the audience I saw this movie with was laughing throughout this movie. I think the main reasons for this were the two actors in the lead roles. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have worked together before, and while this was far from their best work together, their dynamic was more or less what you would expect it to be. These two guys work so well together, and they have mastered this style of comedy, although I am fully aware that they are not everyone's cup of tea.

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have become synonymous with this style of comedy, but it is definitely geared toward a specific demographic of people. Make no mistake, if you do not like movies like Step Brothers or Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, then this movie will probably not work for you either. If you did like their other movies together, then you will most likely find some enjoyment here. That being said, do not expect it to live up to those other movies, just know the style of comedy was similar. The movie had a lot of problems, but I think fans of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly will still find this movie somewhat entertaining.


Con: Conveniently Dumb (-5pts)

This was an area where I think the writers and the actors were held back by making a story about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson. The characters are famously intelligent in the eyes of the audience, as well as in the eyes of the other characters in the story, but the actors playing them play famously dumb characters. The result was a movie where the characters were conveniently dumb for the sake of comedy, but were conveniently geniuses whenever the writers needed to move the plot forward. The problem with this, was that both scenarios feel out-of-place, because the filmmakers just kept flip-flopping back and forth, as opposed to have the characters' intelligence consistent throughout.

It felt out-of-place when these characters are being dumb, because they were setup as two of the smartest men in England. It also felt out-of-place for the characters to be geniuses, because they were shown as being idiots. The filmmakers could have gotten around this by having the characters sort of “Mr. Magoo“ their way out of impossible situations. It could have worked if the characters accidentally solved mysteries, but that was not what the filmmakers did. The filmmakers failed to find a natural balance between the dumb and intelligent aspects of these characters, and it hard to buy into the characters.


Pro: Modern Medicine (+2pts)

This was a running gag that kept popping up throughout this movie, and I do not know why, but it just hit me the right way. The joke was basically how amazing the characters thought medical tools and practices of the time were, even though the tools and practices they used would be wildly insane and barbaric if used today. I do not want to spoil any of these moments in case you plan on seeing the movie, but that was more or less what all of these jokes were. I am not sure if it was the absurdity of it, the fact that it was probably what doctors of that time truly believed, the fact that medical advancements of our time will be seen as just as barbaric a hundred years from now, John C. Reilly’s delivery, or a combination of all of it. All I know is that these jokes worked for me.


Con: Moriarty (-5pts)

I do not know what was worse, a Sherlock Holmes movie where Moriarty was present, but severely underutilized, or having Ralph Fiennes play a character as irrelevant as Moriarty was in this movie. Make no mistake, the guy had a great presence whenever he was on screen, but the character could have been removed entirely and the movie would have felt little to no different. This just seemed like a waste of an iconic character and a great actor, and it was made worse by the fact that the main characters did not stop talking about him or focusing on him, even though he contributed nothing to the story. This made the climax of the movie, and the final reveal, feel like a big let down, because that reveal had not been set up at all. It was a reveal for the sake of having a reveal, and there was no build up to it, which made it feel like a lazy man's plot twist.

Grading Scale






























Grade: C- (71pts)

This movie received absolutely terrible reviews and ratings all over the internet, and while I got some enjoyment out of the movie, I understand where the movie's haters were coming from. The movie, on paper, seemed like it should work. A parody-style story about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, respectively? That seemed like a great idea, but the filmmakers really dropped the ball with the execution of that idea.

The movie had modern reference after modern reference—such as selfies, duckfaces, and drunk texting. All were intended as jokes, but almost all fall flat. Fortunately, these were not the only jokes in the movie, and the audience that I saw this movie with was laughing throughout. At the end of the day, this movie was aimed toward a specific demographic. If you do not like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in their style of comedy, then this movie is everything you dislike about them, and it will certainly not win you over. If you do like comedies with these two, this one will be far from your favorite, but I think you will get at least some enjoyment out of it. I did not think this was a bad movie, but it had the potential of being so much better, and I have definitely seen better from both Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

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