December 25, 2009

It's Elementary, My Dear Whats-his-face

**Wikipedia Warning: This article is about the detective, Sherlock Holmes. For other uses of "brilliant cokehead" see Robert Downey Jr.**

What comes to mind when I bring up the name of the world famous detective, Sherlock Holmes? Are you the type of person who immediately thinks of the dashing ratiocinator with his pipe and hat, sitting in the back of his room at 221b Baker Street, snorting a line of Colombia Gold like he's Little Wayne on a drug bust and then thoroughly explaining why it's all the butler's fault, or, perhaps, are you the kind of person whose mind immediately flashes to a white Dalmatian wearing a plaid hat and a cape?

If you fall in the latter category, you might be the target audience for Guy Richie's surprising new film revolving around that same titular character. By this, of course, I mean that ever lovable dog, Sherlock Holmes. The only difference between the Wishbone version and this $200 million dollar version is that that except for the dog we get Robert Downey Jr, and except for made-for-PBS kid-friendliness we get Guy Richie's fast-talking, guns-blaring speed material so heavily steeped in contagious style that one might serve it with crumpets and Tarantino.

And a side of raw cocaine, but that's another story.

Don't get me wrong, Sherlock Holmes (2009) isn't bad by any stretch. It promises modern action and delivers. Holmes blares across the screen, karate-chopping and judo-punching his way through hordes of mustashio'd henchmen like some sort of Bruce Willis character who rounds out his beatings with a "Jolly ho, good chap!" and a dramatic correction of his hat. Yes, there are some things to gripe about, like the the villain who is so sinister he looks like a British version of Andy Garcia and acts like Xanatos from the Gargoyles animated television show, but he's scary enough and smart enough to give Holmes a good run for his money, and the dialogue, if you're quick enough to follow it all, makes the whole film worth watching.

But there's something just a little too predictable here. The film forsakes the narrative structure of the source material, and instead picks up the structure of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Just like Indy, Holmes is a period adventurer whose intellect is only matched by his physical prowess. Just like Indy, Holmes matches each impossible intuitive leap with similar physical leaps across London. Finally, Just like Indy, director Guy Richie shows off his prowess just a little too much: he shows us each scene with the wool over our eyes and then relishes jumping back in time to show us exactly how it all really went down through the eyes of Sherlock Holmes, just like Troy Duffy would do if he were, you know, talented.

And that brings me to London. The film does a great job using CGI to recreate the look of 19th century London, but one gets a sense of anacronism in the task. Did you know, for example, that 19th century London was actually designed to look like the rooftop scene in Mary Poppins? The whole city looks like it fell out of an old lady's handbag and then got ran over by a car filled with coke, and I mean the kind made of charcoal, not the kind made out of Robert Downey Jr.

There are hints at the sinister Professor Moriarty, but these hints are actually more distracting than anything else. Is there anything worse than a movie that knows it's going to get a sequel or two? Yes. It's a movie that relies on it's sequel, like this one. If Sherlock Holmes made any more room for it's own follow-ups, it would be just a gaping, two-hour trailer for Sherlock Holmes 2: The Hound of the Baskervilles. Am I looking forward to the sequel? Yes. Does this movie merit one? No.

And with that, I'll leave you with the best Sherlock Holmes movie I've ever seen:

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