Raja Sen reviews says Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is ideal holiday entertainment.
If Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were alive today, he'd sue.
In the late great Leslie Nielsen's occasionally funny and often exhausting spy thriller spoof Spy Hard, his boss -- a caricature of James Bond's M played by the infallible Charles Durning -- used to cloak himself in hyper-realistic upholstery, hiding in his office dressed as furniture.
In Guy Ritchie's latest film, the leading man -- played by Robert Downey Jr -- might share his name with the greatest detective in the history of the written word, but happens to be a wholly unrelated nut-job with a similar fetish for unfeasibly elaborate costumes that really don't help him much.
With Ritchie's first Sherlock Holmes film (one I referred to as Sherlock-Man in my review) he immediately established that, ignoring canon, clues and cerebellum, his 'adaptation' would focus squarely on a good old-fashioned romp.
This film goes even further in demonstrating the slapdash dunderheaded nature of his leading man; he doesn't deduce as much as fortuitously stumble ahead. This film has nothing whatsoever to do with the Sherlock Holmes character or the books, no matter how clumsily it tries to make Reichenbach Falls jokes. These pretty, vacuous fools parading around as Holmes and Watson? Please.
In fact, given the amount of homoerotic subtext throbbing unsubtly through the film, it should have been called Jack and Gil.
Jack, in fact, is a name that would have suited Downey's Holmes well, seeing as he is magnificently larger than life -- a flamboyant, effete, spectacular, showy, seemingly amoral hero given to apparent debauchery and a love for kohl. This is, in sum, Downey's very own version of that role Mr Depp made so legendary. Sherlock Sparrow? Aye, he be birdbrained enough.
And while those are particularly gigantic shoes to fill, Downey does so with inspired flair, tapping into that ridiculously buoyant charisma we only see hints of when he plays Tony Stark. His Holmes is a cheeky charlatan clearly besotted by Jude Law's Dr Watson, and Law, this time also in on the joke, is mercifully freed of the need to be the straight man. (Nudge nudge, wink wink.)
This is the Oddest of Couples, one that can't get enough of one another and one where two fine leading men enjoy playing it up, Holmes tossing Watson's wife out of a moving train a half-minute before asking him to come lie down with him. Watson scowls, the angry fusspot, and grudgingly lies down. Yes, it's that kind of a movie.
And as self-indulgent rolls-in-the-hay go, it's a fair bit of fun. Stephen Fry plays Mycroft as a misogynistic nudist exhausted by his own elephantine intellect, and it is here we realise that Ritchie's entire approach to this film -- peopled by mad scientists, gypsies, and people changing faces -- is that of a big-budget pantomime. Plot be darned, everyone's in it to have a good time, and Hans Zimmer works his fiddle-obsessed fingers off trying to shove more zing into the background score. (Not his best work, however. His cut-rate Morricone theme tune and related bits and bobs, while amusing, are entirely showed up by Ritchie including Ennio's own magical Two Mules For Sister Sara theme here.)
So yes, ideal holiday entertainment, this. Those in the need for the real, cerebral Holmes can find him in the BBC's terrific Sherlock, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch (Season Two starts on the first day of 2012) but for a rollicking winter evening, Ritchie provides stupid but striking fireworks.
Downey's irrepressible, Law and Fry are wonderfully breezy, and while Noomi Rapace (who you might have been stunned by in the Swedish adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is merely ornamental, the delicious Rachel McAdams has barely anything to do, and Mary Reilly as Watson's wife merely, albeit feistily complains, it's clear the film does have one thing in common with Sir Doyle's great adventures: it's a big boys jaunt.
And Ritchie ensures they bring the house down.