The Strange Case of The Horrible Sherlock Holmes Comedy

Why Does the Holmes and Watson Movie Even Exist?

The Facebook Message came, as I suspected it would: “You wanna hit Holmes and Watson for me to see if it really is THAT bad?” The question, it seems, was inevitable. All one had to do was look back at the movie reviews I’d written for this site. A pattern: all middling to terrible films, save one. Was I dismayed upon reading it? Yes. Surprised? No. When the year’s most poorly received movie needs a review, who was my editor to dispatch but me, the one who reviews all of the shitty movies? Elementary, my dear reader.

At this point, it becomes necessary to provide you with some sort of review, although logic dictates that if you were going to see Holmes And Watson, you would have done so by now, especially given that it seems certain it won’t be in theaters much longer and may have even been pulled from your local multiplex by the time you finish reading this.

Directed by: Etan Cohen
Written by: Etan Cohen
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Rebecca Hall, Ralph Fiennes
Running time: 90 min.


My initial thought, about ten minutes into the movie, was “did they just program an AI Bot to write a Sherlock Holmes comedy?”, as someone did recently with an Olive Garden commercial. But that experiment turned out to be pretty funny, and that Bot would have done a better job than writer/director Etan Cohen. I laughed once, at a scene involving a swarm of angry bees let loose inside a room, John C. Reilly as “John C. Reilly Trying To Play Watson” shooting at them with a couple of pistols. John C. Reilly trying to shoot bees with a gun is funny regardless of the context.

But “Holmes and Watson” contains a deeper mystery. It’s not that it’s truly terrible. It is, of course. But we may never find a solution to the deeper puzzle: why someone thought another Sherlock Holmes Comedy Starring Big Name Actors would be well-received.

Another, you ask? Yes. We’ll go back to 1971 for the first, a movie called They Might Be Giants. Yes, that’s how the band got its name. In the movie, George C. Scott plays a rich guy who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes. Joanne Woodward plays his psychiatrist, whose name happens to be Mildred Watson. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube. It’s kind of cute, and George C. Scott is pretty great in it.

Another one: The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. In Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Sherlock Holmes did have an arguably smarter brother, Mycroft. In this movie, Gene Wilder plays Sigerson, who is not part of the Holmes canon. The 1975 movie also stars Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman. Before you start thinking that it’s a Mel Brooks movie, it’s not, but oh, it so badly wants to be, right down to a couple of musical numbers that will never be mentioned in the same breath as “The French Mistake” or “I’m Tired”.


More recently, 1988 brought us “Without A Clue”, in which Ben Kingsley’s John Watson is the real brains behind the operation; Michael Caine’s Sherlock is actually a dimwitted actor Watson employs for reasons that make no sense whatsoever. The trailer touted it as the funniest comedy “since knickers made keyholes popular”.

None of these movies made much of a splash. So we now throw Holmes and Watson over the metaphorical Reichenbach Falls, there to reside in a watery grave alongside the other Sherlock Holmes spoofs no one asked for. These days, the best screen version of Sherlock deduces on TV, and he’s actually quite funny in his own way, thank you very much.

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Jason Avant

Jason Avant is a writer and editor based in Carlsbad, California. He’s written for and edited a bunch of websites that no longer exist, and occasionally contributes to one that does: Roads and Kingdoms.

One thought on “The Strange Case of The Horrible Sherlock Holmes Comedy

  • August 31, 2022 at 9:19 pm

    You’re being entirely unfair to “Without a Clue.” That movie is excellent! Kingsley and Caine have great chemistry, and the actual mystery is quite fun. It’s no Rathbone, but it’s a perfectly serviceable comedy.


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