Initially, it scored a rare zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and while that has risen ever so slightly to seven percent, the overall consensus remains that it is terrible. In fact, only two critics rated the film positively, and yet both of them still seemed to agree that it was rather terrible.
Jake Wilson of Australia’s The Age may have called the film a “hilarious skewering of Sherlock nerd fantasy” in his title, he also wrote that “the plot is so rickety it could fall apart at any moment.”
Meanwhile, David Edelstein, writing for Vulture, admitted that the film had fun elements, but also said that “it doesn’t make it easy” to enjoy them. He went on to say that “when it’s bad it is, indeed, painful,” but admitted the “common hordes” around him were certainly “yukking it up.”
Perhaps because he is writing from Australia, but Wilson appreciated the over-the-top antics of the film’s leads, saying they “both spend a lot of time screaming at the tops of their lungs, recklessly brandishing dangerous weapons and congratulating each other on their superiority to everyone else – in a manner only possible for a couple of all-American yahoos pretending to be upper-crust 19th-century Brits.”
He called Etan Cohen’s direction, however, a “relentlessly juvenile approach,” appreciating that it’s very silliness, served to undermine the so-called seriousness of more recent takes on the character led by Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Edelstein thought Cohen’s direction undermined the very film he was working on, calling it “consistently misdirected,” blaming bad camera angles for misfired jokes. He accused Cohen of committing “comedy’s most cardinal sin: He gets between us and the performers.”
The critic went on to add that “The first 15 minutes or so of Holmes & Watson made me doubt I’d last the next 90.” Not exactly a glowing endorsement. He did admit, “Eventually, I relaxed my critical faculties, shrugging off the many, many awful jokes and joyfully receiving the good ones.”
Ultimately, Edelstein felt that the film was inoffensive enough to warrant a good review. “We undervalue silliness as we fight the larger fight against ignorance and mendacity in all its manifestations,” he wrote. “No brain cells are harmed by ‘Holmes & Watson.'” Or used, it seems.
Wilson was able to appreciate that the film was, as he described it, a spiritual sequel to “Step Brothers,” which was better received, calling “Holmes & Watson” “a parody that has less to do with the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle than it does with the spectacle of man-children playing dress-ups.”
And that’s really what it comes down to for both me. The comedy duo of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly has engendered so much good will over the years, that they’re willing to forgive this mess of a comedy that tries way too hard and misses more jokes than it lands simply because they enjoy seeing them together.
It’s worth noting that lowbrow often struggles to earn the appreciation of critics, while the “common hordes” seem to have no problem enjoying it. Even the aforementioned “Step Brothers,” which is considered a juvenile-humor classic, only sits at 55 percent with critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
But it’s also worth noting that audiences have reportedly been walking out of screenings of “Holmes & Watson” because it’s so terrible, as detailed by Looper and social media, with some demanding refunds — since they can’t get their time back.
So maybe the critical bashing of “Holmes & Watson” isn’t simply because it’s immature humor better suited for middle school boys than adults. Maybe it just sucks and these guys are wishing so hard for that not to be true — because they love Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly together — that they’re trying to spit-polish a turd.
It’s okay, guys. We love them, too. Maybe it’s time to consider a true sequel to “Step Brothers,” where they can see what happens after their parents die or finally kick them out. Sometimes simpler is better.
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