The bottom line: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is not the detective made popular in your granddaddy’s days.
While not close to traditional and not the most fun you’ll have in a theater this holiday season, it is a lot of fun and worth catching.
Professor James Moriarty — the famed detective's most feared foe — is setting Europe up for a war. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson must stop him. Complicating things is Watson getting married. The honeymoon has to wait. Moriarty has threatened to kill Holmes, the doctor and his wife. And anyone else getting in the way.
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That leads Holmes, Watson and Noomi Rapace's (Sweden's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) gypsy queen on an adventure across Europe.
Most of us can agree this isn't likely what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had in mind when he created his famed detective in 1887. Robert Downey, Jr. nails Holmes' idiosyncrasies, but he’s a bit more hyper and distracted than the character envisioned by the author.
Jude Law’s stodgy Dr. Watson is excellent, and, at least in dialogue and attitude, closer to the picture painted in Doyle’s four novels and 56 short stories.
While not appealing to Holmes purists, Downey’s interpretation of the character is dead-on for a Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) movie. The connection and chemistry between Downey and Law make them perfect for a buddy-cop flick.
And make no mistake, while the story takes place in an era when buddy-cops didn’t exist, this is a buddy-cop movie.
Another distraction for sticklers of tradition is Ritchie’s painting Holmes as a martial arts expert/action hero. Action flick fans don’t care. Ritchie’s production has all the right ingredients. After the mostly easy to master mystery, he packs the flick with action — fast motion and slow. Some of the slo-mo stuff is terrific and lots of fun.
Add to the mix plenty of humor as Holmes and Watson plow through the plot.
There are lots to like in this one. The always-exceptional Downey and Law have a blast with their characters and Ritchie is — if not the most — one of the most creative directors working today. His storytelling and pacing are superb.
To the Holmes purist, all I can say is everything in life evolves. Change is necessary to keep life fresh. The same principle applies to movies, though it’s not a concept that makes all of us happy. If Basil Rathbone is how you still see Sherlock Holmes, then stay home.
Meanwhile, the rest of us will find A Game of Shadows a shade or two better than Ritchie’s first Sherlock Holmes effort.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It opens Friday, Dec. 16 at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.