Sherlock Holmes is a mess. Physically and literally.
Start with five screenwriters and director Guy Ritchie stuck on how to make the legendary and cerebral sleuth palatable to today’s technology addicted, text messaging, everything’s gotta-go-fast moviegoer. Their answer is throw Indiana Jones and Harry Potter themes at the screen and see what sticks.
Some ideas do, and some don’t, but that’s what you get with five writers. It looks as if each writes a couple of scenes along a common theme and Ritchie’s (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) job is to paste them together.
Here’s what sticks. Though it is never mentioned — PG-13 rating and all — if you’re going to do Holmes as an obnoxious cocaine addict then casting Robert Downey Jr. is inspired.
Downey knows the drill. Holmes’ humble hovel is a paper-strewn pigsty, and his constant companion, the good Dr. Watson, cannot be blamed for moving out to marry the woman of his dreams. Watson — by the way — is nicely done by Jude Law.
That’s one sub-crisis. Another casts Rachel McAdams (The Time Traveler’s Wife) as a Holmes love interest and foe. Her basic job is to give Holmes a second sparring partner, someone to save and to make sure Ritchie and crew get to do a sequel.
The film’s focus is Holmes and Watson doing battle with dark arts expert Lord Blackwood who — after being convicted of several grisly murders — is executed. Then, he rises from the dead and terrorizes London.
Downey is one of the great actors of his generation. His execution of a character is flawless. Every gesture is perfectly performed and graceful like a ballet. No one can time the delivery of a comedy line or toss off a nasty crack like Downey. In his haste to sell a harried, distracted Holmes, Downey wastes all that talent by mumbling away the film’s best dialogue.
There are — however — positives. The tongue-in-cheek give and take between Law and Downey is lots of fun, and the tandem’s comedy chemistry works. So does Mark Strong’s villainy. Though a tame treat by Ritchie’s standards and not very deep, Sherlock Holmes is guilty pleasure. Nothing else.
Unable to resist the pun, Sherlock Holmes is elementary, my dear Watson, elementary.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, Dec. 25 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
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.