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.