Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sherlock Holmes-less

Of all the wonderful mysteries that have involved this legendary detective, the latest one is the biggest.

How the hell did this movie get made?

And why?

Even Sherlock Holmes himself would be hard pressed to discern the answer. And his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was too busy this past weekend spinning in his grave. And probably posthumously kicking himself over and over. "Why, oh why, didn't I protect the rights to my marvelous stories so that they wouldn't fall into the public domain and get hacked to death by cheeseball directors like Guy Ritchie?" Well, I might be paraphrasing, but perhaps the esteemed author said something like that by last Monday morning.

Oh, don't get me wrong. If you're twenty years old and the most reading you have ever done is the help screen for your newest X-Box game, you probably liked "Sherlock Holmes." If you're like me and you read all the stories when you were a kid and fondly remember such Holmes portrayers as Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, you likely were hunting for the most rabid Hound of the Baskervilles you could find to take a big chunk out of your neck. Because nothing in this movie has anything remotely to do with Holmes, Watson, or 221B Baker Street. Oh, the names are there. And once in a London blue moon, they slip in something from the books. But, other than that, I could have been watching the latest Batman installment. Or a Homeland Security instructional video. Or a DVD on the proper way to fold your napkin at the dinner table. It's that nonsensical.

Director Guy Ritchie, who once was married to Madonna, includes us with her in a very revered group. Because he's now fucked all of us. Not content to let the Doyle stories serve as the basis for his plot, Ritchie throws in a kitchen sink of movie ideas that will overflow and flood our brains. At various different times, "Sherlock Holmes" is a Kung Fu movie, an episode of "24," a James Bond adventure, a sequel to the dreadful "Fight Club," and a documentary on "Riverdance." But, never once is it about the detective we have come to see. Instead of looking for a speckled band, Holmes and Watson are Marvel Comic superheroes here to save the world one country at a time.

As the latest incarnation of Holmes, Robert Downey Jr., who is usually most reliable in anything he does, is an unmitigated mess. For the first hour of the film, I literally thought my hearing was on the fritz. I couldn't understand a word he said, and, given the fact that I saw this movie in Grauman's Chinese which sports the best movie sound system in the world, I figured my next purchase at Barnes and Nobles would be a sign language manual. Well, luckily or unluckily, my friend had the same problem.

For some mystical reason, Downey spent the entire film playing Holmes as if he was Buddy Hackett. Or Myron Cohen telling a dirty Yiddish joke at the Copa. The only bright spot was the scene where Downey, as Holmes, is tied and handcuffed naked to a bed. Was I the only one who got this delicious irony for Downey, who has spent many a drug-soaked evening wandering the hills of Malibu in the same fashion?

No one else was any better and the ultra-sloppy special effects looked like nothing more than some discarded computer files at your Photoshop 101 class. The closing segment on the London Bridge looked about as real as Raquel Welch's last botox treatment. Of course, in this film, you never saw but a flash of the infamous Professor Moriarty. Perhaps they are saving him for a dreaded sequel. Hey, maybe they're saving the good script for the next movie as well.

Prior to the film, the audience at the Chinese Theater welcomed the rolling back of the curtain (yes, folks, a movie screen curtain!) with anticipatory hoots and hollers. They were primed for some good entertainment. But, at the conclusion, there was an odd development. In Hollywood, when a good movie ends, there is usually applause. After "Sherlock Holmes," there was dead silence. The audience filed out quietly as if they had just taken one last good look at a dead uncle.

So, perhaps, that is the real mystery here for which the game will be afoot.

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappointed Moviegoer.

Dinner last night: Panini with prosciutto, mozzarella, and sundried tomatoes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another sad case of Hollywood killing the material with a witless remake. There are supposedly about 200 filmed versions of Holmes. He's certainly been around. Why this redo?

Warner Brothers is hoping for a new tentpole. This is the same studio that produced that expensive flop, Speed Racer. Thanks, Warners.

I lost all faith in the big studios ability to create interesting, original work. Dark Knight, anyone?

The real disappointment here is Downey, an actor I look forward to seeing in anything. Till now.

He never gets a handle on Holmes and yet this is the same actor who brought Iron Man to life, a much tougher part.

And why is Downey so hard to understand? I lost 90% of his lines. That wasn't a problem in Tropic Thunder where he really laid the accent on thick.


Include me out for the inevitable sequel.