Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

Rated: watchable

This may not be the timeliest review, but I will nonetheless deposit my two cents into the well of opinions about this Christmastime crowd pleaser. 

I never read Arthur Conan Doyle’s original sleuth stories. Not that it would matter in the case of this version of England’s most famous detective. Warner Brothers and Company did what they do best, borrowing the most marketable aspect of an existing franchise and turning it into something way more marketable and infinitely franchisable. Though it is difficult to parse the original Sherlock Holmes story from the steroid fed Mr. Hyde that it has become, it would also be unfair to compare this apple with that orange.

Sherlock Holmes “The Movie” delivers exactly what you expect from both its star Robert Downey Jr., the newly crowned Emperor of Action, and its genre, the Christmas Blockbuster. The new and improved Holmes looks like he works out at the gym and bakes in LA tanning salons, but has uncharacteristically misplaced his razor. In addition, he has exchanged his supposed Aspbergers for wit, empathy, and love of a hot chick (a miscast Rachel McAdams). Sadly, Holmes famed drug addiction gets a white wash here, I suppose for the sake of the little ones allowed to see massive fire bombs and violent fight scenes, but not allowed to fully experience that dangerous, corrupting force- the three dimensional character. No, Downey Jr.’s Holmes is more like a super hero stripped of his dark side for fear of seeming incapable. Perhaps the committee that developed this script is waiting for the second installment to introduce his flaws.

So, what of Watson, Holmes humanizing counterpart? One gets the impression from the dashing, smart and way-too-sexy-to-be-a-sidekick Jude Law that it may have been Law who was initially tapped to play Sherlock, but then came a little movie called Iron Man and the Bank made some changes. One also gets the impression that Law might have played Holmes a little too straight judging from his concise, buttoned up Watson.

 Unfairly, Watson’s personal demons are laid bare so we may understand why such a good guy would hang around with such a misanthropic mess. We never come to have quite the same understanding why the super human Holmes would need anybody else, no less someone with brains. No matter, Law is plausible as the abused friend and loyal aid to Downey Jr.’s unraveling genius, even if his motivation for continuing the madness is clearly just to keep the action going.

The story is fun and engaging, with sufficient mystery and potential missteps to keep an audience off their cell phone for an hour and a half. The only thing missing from the trifecta of movie success is a little nudity. Filmmakers such as these have realized that a shit load of violence does just as good a job attracting young male audiences without loosing the PG-13 rating. What a relief for the young Ms. McAdams.

Were this film to have ended without a villain getting away, I would have deemed it utterly un-Sherlock. And utterly un-wise. Though Sherlock Holmes is as entertaining as a film can be, it is still predictable and forgettable. It may take three or four more installments of Downey Jr. as Holmes for us to take it seriously. Wait not. We can set our sight on Downey Jr.’s next iconic historical re-imagination- Edgar Allen Poe. I feel like I’ve seen it already.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

Dir: John Krasinski

Grade: intolerable

Imagine a film where two catering waiters carry on a rambling dialectic about the needs and wants of brattish NYU professors and their complex sexual nature while an army of empty characters interact in a plotless void. No imagination needed. The Office’s John Krasinksi has made this very movie.


Brief? Hardly. Supposedly based on six short stories by David Foster Wallace, BIWHM, an unspecific musing on the modern woman and her “needs”, is a pretty un-watchable hunk of New York elitist BS. So meaningless is the dialog, I stopped caring what these characters were talking about within the first five minutes. Maybe its because I went to NYU and I am a modern woman that I found nothing true or engaging about what the men in this movie had to say about my ilk. Unfortunately, the women in question had almost nothing to say for themselves.


It’s too bad. Krasinski was able to wrangle some serious talent for his writer/director debut and he wasted every last bit of it. Timothy Hutton demands instant hatred as an arrogant professor aware of his dominant position over women and was sadly the only character with teeth. The usually amazing Will Arnett was left with nothing to do but “act” with himself in a vain attempt to funny up the flick. Krasinski’s Office mate Rashida Jones is virtually an extra, as is Krasinski himself. Other talented comedians, including SNL’s Will Forte, fill in the film’s over-populated world with little spark.


It amazed me how so many funny people could create a film without the slightest hope of a laugh. Not that this was supposed to be a comedy. It’s just that when you pack your film with famous funny people, your audience is going to expect to chuckle once in awhile. But, I suppose I am not the audience this film was made for, despite my precise resume. It was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance, once again proving that people who give out awards think they are somehow smarter than the rest of us. Really now. I got it and it wasn’t good.