director: Etan Cohen
writer: Etan Cohen
starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Kelly Macdonald and Ralph Fiennes
genre: Adventure | Comedy | Crime | Spoof
released: 25 December 2018 (USA), 26 December 2018 (Australia), 3 January 2019 (Germany), 31 January 2019 (Greece)
If this was 2006 when ‘Talladega Nights’ first came out, this film would have been an easy sell, but that was a long time ago and in the year 2019 many don’t remember the success and popularity of the Reilly-Ferrell duo, besides the fact that Will Ferrell is no longer at the peak of his career. In addition, comedies aren’t what they used to be, as no one can take a joke anymore with where the culture has gone, so why would this film be of any worth or well anticipated. And the truth of the matter is quite the opposite of what the mass media and professional critics have been saying about this film and how bad it is, on the contrary its just mediocre.
Set in Victorian Era England, Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) is the greatest detective the world has seen with his trusted sidekick Watson (John C. Reilly) by his side, but never being an equal as a co-detective. When a new case is presented to them that involves the murder of the Queen, Holmes will have to get to the bottom of the case and find out if his arch nemesis Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) is behind it all or if somebody else is pulling the strings. A perfect challenge for the greatest detective, but one made worse with the crown not only at risk, but also his partnership.
This film is an interesting case once you know some of the backstory to its release and from various angles. As it seems Sony who produced it, didn’t think it was a worthy investment due to bad screen testing and tried to pawn it off to Netflix who wouldn’t take it (source). These reports also suspiciously arose the week of the film’s release and that supposedly Sony was just going to take the hit financially for the film. However, when a studio makes that decision they usually will release it in the month of January and February with the other dead on arrival productions. Instead, here the film was released in the jam packed Hollywood season of Christmas. Additionally, the whole force of the media ganged up on this film and gave it critically a Rotten Tomato score for a short time of 0%. Which didn’t last long and the film is now at 10% at the time of this review (source). Which goes to show this film suddenly needed to be the pinata of the media world for one reason or another and also at a time where the world’s culture isn’t able to take a joke and where the film itself is a play on older movie spoofs. Something we hadn’t seen as far I remember in a while at the movie theaters and also where the film itself wasn’t advertised as such, which ended up proving to be to its detriment.
Which leads us to the film itself that was not great, but this wasn’t a surprise as it also wasn’t the worst comedy this world has seen. Watching the film undoubtedly you will be uninspired, but to say there weren’t moments of genuine laughter or of great comedic intellect is unfair. The film does lack the charm and natural foresight of the previous Ferrell and Reilly films, but the bigger problem wasn’t the lack of a more functional narrative with cooky events and great comedic dialogue, but a bonkers narrative with out of bounds events and dialogue, as this film wasn’t a ‘Ricky Bobby’ or a ‘Step Brothers’, but a long forgotten spoof film. This film should have gone full force and went the direction of films before it such as ‘Airplane’ ‘Hot Shots’ and ‘Scary Movie’. Productions that didn’t waste their time on respect or critical acclaim and had fun, but maybe the production was aware of this and thought it would be too much. Although, personally that is what I thought their downfall was. As when they go down that route of the absurd in the film, this is where its funniest moments exist. A great example is the Queen’s visit to Sherlock at his home and also the intermixing of the past historical events into the narrative.
However, its unfortunate that this spoof route wasn’t fully explored as the film then at times comes off wimpish in a way. As the production sets aren’t the most lavish and some social commentary does exist with comparisons of Victorian England vs America of today that is a bit topical, but also too on the nose. And finally some of guest actors while they are great to have in the film didn’t have many moments to shine. Sometimes you say less is more, but in this film’s case they needed to push envelope, something that is noticeable while watching the film and comprehending its true purpose and nature.
This film has been trashed more than it deserved and there is indeed still moments in it where some genuine comedy lies. John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell are still great actors and one of the best comedy duos we have seen and maybe just unlucky that the material wasn’t up to snuff.