Previews: Gerard Butler as ‘Professor Challenger’

This is a review of Guy Ritchie’s flick Sherlock Holmes for Warner Brothers, with five writers taking over for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, including the scribe who penned XXX: State of the Union.

In the coming attractions before the new blockbuster Sherlock Holmes (unto itself an unlikely sentence to write), there’s a preview for Iron Man 2.  In a way, I felt like what followed was that movie.

You may have enjoyed my work on "Ally McBeal."

You’ve got one of the greatest actors of our time, Robert Downey Jr., elevating an unlikely superhero and film into a major Hollywood franchise.  You’ve got clever interplay and puns that sometimes gets lost with a bombastic, over-the-top story with a mediocre villain (No one can write villains anymore!  Makes you really appreciate this guy!).  You’ve got a superfluous beauty.  And you’ve got an enjoyable flick that needs a good editor.

While without the zip of Iron Man, Holmes is not without its moments, chief amongst them the squabbles of Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Dr. John Watson (though it’s a pity with five screenwriters that no one wrote the line, “Elementary, my dear Watson!”).   The plot gets a bit convoluted at times, but there are moments of real mystery–  Holmes plucks a violin and the film employs a cool, retro slow-speed device to show us how he puts together the clues in his mind.  I could’ve done without the Matrix-esque fight moments, but Guy Ritchie‘s never been my cup of tea to begin with.  The truly talented and beautiful Rachel McAdams manages to breathe life into an underwritten role (there’s nothing this woman can’t do; Hollywood has got to catch up to her).

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Two main bones to pick with this fair, inoffensive flick:  The first:  What is Downey Jr. doing?  Sure, Iron Man put him on the top of the food chain, but after that backing up of the money truck, is this necessary?  I mean, this guy is so ridiculously talented that I’d watch him do anything (consider: Wonder Boys, Home for the Holidays, The Singing Detective), and I give him credit for picking projects like Zodiac and Charlie Bartlett, but you just want to make sure he doesn’t go off and become the next Nicholas Cage.  He ought to really challenge himself next.

The second:  The ending (spoiler alert!):  Of course it makes sense that the unseen face is Lord Voldemort Moriarty, but I’ve rarely seen a Hollywood flick so shamelessly set up for a sequel, and that’s saying something.  Of course in 1893 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who would like some of this fuck-you money, please!) famously plunged Holmes to his death and faced public uproar.  There’s absolutely no chance of Warner Brothers doing that here.

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