Monday, January 04, 2010

BuboBlog Reviews 'Sherlock Holmes' (F'reals This Time)

As you know, I approached the new "Sherlock Holmes" film with some trepidation.

After all, I'd heard that Watson wasn't going to be portrayed as a blithering idiot and Holmes wasn't going to be a cocaine user (despite being played by Robert Downey Jr.). Why mess with the formula, people?

The fact that Guy Ritchie was directing the film also raised concerns, since his movies always seem to mix incomprehensible dialogue and bewildering action sequences. (At least the risk that Madonna would make a cameo seemed low.)

After seeing the movie, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, Holmes is reimagined as an action hero — there are plenty of explosions and chase scenes, as well as some 19th century slap-fighting. But he remains a thinking-man's fighter. Before taking on each opponent, he plots out his course of attack with scientific precision: If, say, a man is a drinker, Holmes will decide to punch him in the liver. So the film stays true to the spirit of Holmes, even if he is kicking way more ass than he did in all of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories combined.

The stakes of the movie's plot are much higher than in the typical Holmes story: It involves Parliament, and a plan to seize control of the United Kingdom and take back the American colonies. But in other ways, it's perfectly in keeping with Doyle's tales. It sets out a series of events that could only be caused by something supernatural — and then shows how it wasn't.

The main reason to see the movie is to watch the odd-couple antics of Downey as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. They have great chemistry, and the film takes the form of a "bromantic" comedy. It starts out with Watson moving out of their rooms at 221B Baker Street, fed up with Holmes' carelessness and eccentricities. Then Watson spends the rest of the movie essentially saying, "I wish I knew how to quit you."

Holmes gets a visit from former lover/rival Irene Adler, who draws him into a case of international intrigue. Adler, an American, is a real character from the stories (though she only appeared in one). She's played here by Rachel McAdams, who I didn't quite buy in the role. Yes, she's supposed to be American, so it's not like she didn't fit. I just thought she couldn't quite do justice to the Holmes-Watson-Adler triangle. I don't know who I would have preferred in the role. Perhaps Dame Judi Dench.

A few of the action sequences go on a bit long, and I wasn't sure about setting the final showdown on the Tower Bridge. Maybe I feel jealous when bridges other than the Golden Gate get featured in movies, but it's hard to convey a great sense of danger when the Tower Bridge is only 30 feet above the Thames!

BuboBlog Rating: 3 asterisks (out of 4).

(By the way, if you didn't understand why my previous post was funny, you should read "The Adventure of the Dancing Men." If you still don't think it's funny, it might just mean you're not a complete dweeb.)