Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

One of the big questions this holiday movie season was whether Sherlock Holmes or Avatar would end up taking the box office crown. But, of course, there was another question looming equally large: would they both, in fact, suck?

Well, we've had a chance to see Sherlock Holmes and while the movie could certainly have been better, it definitely could have been much, much worse. With that in mind, then, it is our official position at The Vault the Sherlock Holmes does not suck.

Granted, that's not exactly the most ringing endorsement, but we mean no slight to what the movie is. Rather, it's simply a result of how often this kind of hich-octane modernization of Victorian action stories have totally sucked in recent years. Wild, Wild West, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Van Helsing are just a few examples of the complete crap that Hollywood has turned out trying to make period blockbusters "cool" for today's history-impared audiences.

Sherlock Holmes manages to rise above those low standards thanks mainly to the work of stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, who bring energy and verve to their well-worn roles and imbue the film with a camaraderie that make the entire affair palatable and even occasionally fun. Yes, the plot twists, villains and puzzles are relatively slapdash (though still miles above the similar nonsense in the more modernly themed Robert Langdon films like Angels and Demons) and some elements appear to be red herrings (a lot of time is spent showing how Holmes can dissect fights, for instance, for reasons that escape me), but overall the energy of Downey -- like his soul brother Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean films -- is enough to carry the movie over the rough parts.

The one real misstep, in fact, is the love interest, a scheming thief played by Rachel McAdams. I'm not sure there was a single scene involving her character in the entire movie that worked on any level; the character was thin at best and pointless at worst and McAdams, who has been fine in plenty of other movies, seemed as lost as the writers who scripted her scenes. As the heart of the movie is the soul bond between Watson and Holmes, which is underscored just fine by the subplot involving Sherlock's displeasure at Watson's impending marriage, her presence as a love interest seemed completely superfluous and unnecessary, as Holmes seemed more than fulfilled by both the love of the game and the manly bonding he shares with Watson. While Watson's fiancee proves sympathetic in her few scenes, McAdams proves to be an unnecessary and unwanted distraction.

Overall, though, the film was entertaining enough (though they were just a bit heavy handed in setting up the sequel). And when it comes to this genre, anything short of complete suckage is a huge bonus, so the fact that the film ends up being mildly enjoyable is both a surprise and a relief.

My Grades: Downey and Law get straight A's, while director Guy Ritchie gets a B- for not making this suck nearly as much as it certainly could have. The final grade for the film: also a B-, but a fun one.