Movie Review: “Holmes & Watson”

Updated on May 30, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Holmes & Watson

Theatrical Release: 12/25/2018
Theatrical Release: 12/25/2018 | Source


Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) is the greatest detective in all of England. There is only one man with an intellect that can rival Sherlock’s. Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) is a criminal mastermind that has given Sherlock a run for his money. Fortunately, Sherlock is not alone. With his trusted sidekick and friend, Doctor John Watson (John C. Reilly), there are few mysteries that the duo cannot solve.

Moriarty has been apprehended, and is on trial for the many crimes he has committed. Sherlock, however, thinks the situation is more complicated than everyone believes. Sherlock thinks that Moriarty’s plan is unfolding exactly as he planned, and it is the Queen’s life that is in danger. Together, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson must solve this mystery, and stop their greatest intellectual adversary, before any harm comes to the Queen of England.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
Sherlock (+3pts)
Modern References (-5pts)
Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly (+6pts)
Conveniently Dumb (-5pts)
Modern Medicine (+2pts)
Moriarty (-5pts)
All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

Pro: Sherlock (+3pts)

I thought this premise could work. The idea of Sherlock being played by Will Ferrell had the potential to make some truly entertaining moments. I thought the filmmakers did a poor job of executing this premise, but there were some moments that I still thought worked really well. Some of these moments were scenes that made fun of the classic scenarios where Sherlock calculates his way out of his situation.

We all know the scenes. Sherlock gets himself in a fight or difficult situation, then carefully calculates how everything will play out, as well as how he needs to respond. These scenes are cool because, even though we know it is fiction, it is satisfying to see how accurate Sherlock’s predictions are, and it makes him seem so much smarter than his enemies. I knew this movie would make fun of these scenes by having this version of Sherlock be less accurate with his predictions. Even knowing these scenes would happen, I still found them pretty darn entertaining while they were happening.


Con: Modern References (-5pts)

I was worried about this when I saw the first trailer for the movie. The idea of playing these two characters comedically is fine, but to have them drop references to modern culture did not make any sense. The references just felt out-of-place, given the time period that the movie takes place. Granted, I thought a couple of these references worked.

One that I thought worked was the spin cycle reference. I do not want to spoil the moment, so that is all I will say about it, but I actually enjoyed that one. Unfortunately, the spin cycle joke was the exception, not the rule. Despite the movie’s terrible reviews, the audience I was in was laughing throughout the movie’s duration, but most of the modern references fell flat (even to an audience that seemed to be enjoying the rest of the movie). To make this worse, the filmmakers had a ton of these kinds of jokes, and almost none of them worked.


Pro: Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly (+6pts)

Full disclosure, I have always been a fan of these two, and their style of comedy. I definitely am not alone because, as mentioned before (despite the horrendous reviews and ratings that this movie has received) the audience I saw this movie with was laughing throughout this movie. I think the major contributing factors to this were the two lead actors. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have worked together before and, while this is far from their best work together, their dynamic is (more or less) what you would expect it to be. These two guys work so well together, and they have mastered this style of comedy, although I am fully aware that they are not everyone's cup of tea.

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have become synonymous with this style of comedy, but it is definitely geared towards a specific demographic. Make no mistake, if you did not like movies like Step Brothers or Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, then this movie will probably not work for you either. If you did like their other movies together, then you will most likely find some enjoyment here. That being said, do not expect it to live up to those other movies. The movie has a lot of problems, but I think fans of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly will still find this movie somewhat entertaining.


Con: Conveniently Dumb (-5pts)

This was an area where I think the writers and the actors were held back by making a story about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson. The characters are famously intelligent in the eyes of the audience and the other characters in the story, but the actors play famously dumb characters. The result is a movie where the characters are conveniently dumb for the sake of comedy, but are conveniently geniuses whenever the writers needed to move the plot forward. The problem with this, is that both scenarios feel out-of-place.

It feels out-of-place when these characters are being dumb, because they are setup as two of the smartest men in England. It also feels out-of-place for the characters to be geniuses, because they are setup as being a couple of idiots. The filmmakers could have gotten around this by having the characters sort of “Mr. Magoo“ their way out of impossible situations. In other words, the whole concept could have worked if the characters accidentally solved mysteries. Unfortunately this was not the case. The filmmakers failed to find a natural balance between the dumb and intelligent aspects of these characters, and the whole film suffered.


Pro: Modern Medicine (+2pts)

This was a running gag that kept popping up throughout this movie and, I do not know why, but it just hit me the right way. The joke is basically how amazing modern medicine is, even though the tools and methods they use would be insane or barbaric to use today. I do not want to spoil any of the moments, in case you plan on seeing the movie, but that is more or less what all of these jokes are. I am not sure if it was the absurdity of it, the fact that it was probably what doctors of that time truly believed, John C. Reilly’s delivery, or a combination of all of it. All I know is that it worked for me.


Con: Moriarty (-5pts)

I do not know what was worse, a Sherlock Holmes movie where Moriarty was present but severely underutilized, or having Ralph Fiennes play a character as irrelevant as Moriarty was in this movie. Make no mistake, the guy has a great presence whenever he is on screen, but the character could have been removed entirely and the movie would have felt little to no different. This just seemed like a waste of an iconic character and a great actor. This is made worse by the fact that the main characters do not stop talking about him or focusing on him. This made the climax of the film, and the final reveal, feel like a big let down, because that reveal had not been set up at all.

Grading Scale


Grade: C- (71pts)

This movie has received absolutely terrible reviews and ratings all over the internet and, while I got some enjoyment out of the movie, I understand where the haters are coming from. The movie, on paper, seemed like it should work. A parody-style story about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly (respectively)? That seemed like a great idea, but the filmmakers really dropped the ball with the execution.

The movie has modern reference after modern reference (such as selfies, duckfaces, and drunk texting). All are intended as jokes, but almost all fall flat. These were not the only jokes, however, and the audience that I saw this movie with was laughing throughout. At the end of the day, this movie is geared towards its demographic. If you do not like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in their style of comedy, then this movie is everything you dislike about them. If you do like comedies with these two, this will be far from your favorite, but it will be somewhat entertaining. I did not think this was a bad movie, but it had the potential of being so much better, and I have definitely seen better from Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.


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