I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: parody done well can be truly funny and timely. It has the ability to capture the humor in otherwise humorless stories and shape the narrative by turning the finger back at us in an effort make use laugh at ourselves when we get too indulgent on our opinions of what film should be. At best, we are treated to highly self aware comedic look at ourselves. At worst, we’re given “Holmes and Watson” (2018). More of an unrestrained collection of Funny or Die sketches (sorely lacking the funny and heavily including the die) than an actual film, it is perhaps one of the worst parody films I’ve seen in a while. And I’ve sat through “Dracula Dead and Loving it” and “Meet the Spartans.”
I’m inclined to believe that “Holmes and Watson” takes the cake for the worst of the worst. That might not even be limited to just the parody genre, either. I mean out of all the 10% or Less rated films I’ve done so far, it makes a strong case for being number one as one of the most unpleasant movie watching experiences of 2021. Yes, this includes the multiple Uwe Bol films I’ve already reviewed. You may be thinking there’s no possible way “Holmes and Watson” can be worse than say, “In the Name of the King,” but I assure you there is. See, when it comes to something with Bol’s name on it, you already know you’re in for an extremely rough watch. When you see the duo of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly backed by a script from Etan Cohen (who co-wrote “Tropic Thunder“), there’s a certain level of comedy you expect that ends up being completely absent here.
See, there’s a big difference between a film meeting your low expectations and being severely disappointed by those same levels. I didn’t go in to “Holmes and Watson” thinking it was going to be on any particular level of greatness. I enjoy the duo of Ferrell and Reilly, and while the idea of them tackling Sherlock Holmes lore doesn’t really do it for me, I legitimately went into this viewing with the thought that there was no way the film could be as bad as other critics said it was. As scathing as the reviews are, after watching “Holmes and Watson” I can say that even the worst of them were being generous.
Among the many, MANY problems that plague “Holmes and Watson,” the most glaring of which is just how lazily zany and unfunny it all is. On premise alone, the idea of man child Sherlock and his even sillier man child Watson is a stretch of the imagination to begin with, and doesn’t really fit within the scope of the Ferrell/Reilly formula. Man child step brothers? Sure. Man child NASCAR racers? Ya, that works. But THIS? No, no it doesn’t work at all. And maybe it could if the writing was sharper and more concerned with what it wants to parody instead of letting both stars run amuck from dated joke to dated joke. “Holmes and Watson” isn’t even mildly, chuckle funny. It’s downright emotionless.
It’s all over the place, never sticking with one thing to defines its narrative or humor. It feels like each person in every scene started each take by saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we thought we killed the queen trying to take selfie then tried to stuff her in a trunk?” or “Wouldn’t it be funny if we did the potter wheel scene from Ghost but during an autopsy?” or “Wouldn’t it be crazy if we turned this random boxing match into a Pay Per View joke? Get it?” or “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if I broke out into song right here? I know it’s not in the script but we should totally do it!” And then someone foolishly said yes to all of it. All of that happens and I can assure you that it’s just as unfunny to watch as it is to read. And none of those “parody” jokes connect to the other, making “Holmes and Watson” an unfunny experiment of half baked premise that never, ever gets going.
In the end, “Holmes and Watson” is a joyless, slog of an experience, one I almost didn’t make it through if we’re being honest. It’s not even worth having on in the background while doing other things. It demands that little of your attention, and proves that as versatile as Reilly may be and as sure fire Ferrell delivery seems and as strong of a co-writer of Cohen may be, the end product can still be an absolute dumpster fire.
By now you probably know how I feel about whether or not “Holmes and Watson” deserves its 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course it does, but it’s important to note that there ARE ways to fix this particular flick. None of them would make it a good film, but at the very least could make it somewhat watchable. These fixes would require a complete overhaul of the film, though, making in unrecognizable from its current version thus technically making it an unfixable film.
I guess for starters, the film would serve better as being a parody of the world from an adjacent perspective rather than replacing the titular heroes with morons. Ferrell and Reilly are never once believable as Holmes or Watson, not even as a parody version. They would be better served as the idiot brothers of the classic detectives, or the under appreciated staff with a desire for detective work. Literally any other entry point for the pair outside of making them the classic detectives. It simply doesn’t work the way they think or want it to, and it makes “Holmes and Watson” fail on every single level of filmmaking.
So ya, “Holmes and Watson” more than deserves its 10% rating, and makes the case for not only the worst film of 2018, but maybe the worst film I’ve seen out of all the terrible ones I’ve already subjected myself to. There’s not even a cheeky one liner I can end this review on because there’s nothing funny or memorable enough in the film to warrant a clever play on words or movie reference from it. Ya, it’s THAT bad.
Avoid “Holmes and Watson” at all costs. Trust me on this one.