Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Grade: 12 (D)

There’s been a recent resurgence in Sherlock Holmes-related entertainment, from the BBC series Sherlock to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, one of the most pleasant surprises of 2009. Ritchie’s first Holmes outing was stylish, fun, and had a solid balance between action-movie filmmaking and old-fashioned detective work. It also had a nutty charm in the chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr.’s daffy Holmes and Jude Law’s frequently exasperated Dr. Watson. It makes sense that Ritchie would make a sequel to in. But Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows feels like the fifth outing in a dying franchise, suffering from the same acute case of sequelitis that this year’s earlier, similarly execrable The Hangover Part II had: it’s bigger, louder, and dumber than the original, and only a hollow shell of its former self.

Holmes is upset that Watson is finally leaving their partnership to marry his fiancée (Kelly Reilly). They’re in the middle of an important case involving the dastardly Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Moriarty has sent bombs throughout Europe, and now plans to attack Watson on his honeymoon. Holmes, Watson, and the gypsy Madame Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace) band together to stop Moriarty from assassinating a world leader at a peace conference and essentially starting World War I early.

Yes, that’s Moriarty’s plot: he’s going to profit off of World War I by more or less starting it twenty years early. It’s a dumb plot, and Ritchie doesn’t do much with it. The charms of the original film are almost entirely gone: the entertaining slow motion sequence where Holmes deduces how to stop someone in their tracks? Enjoy seeing that seven or eight times. Sherlock Holmes doing actual detecting? Not much of that. Enjoyable chemistry between Downey and Law? Their material is so weak that there’s precious little to enjoy in their interactions. Solid comedy? The film’s jokes are mostly terrible, and when they work they’re ruined a second later. A memorable villain? Harris does perfectly alright as Moriarty (certainly better than the horrendous Andrew Scott in the otherwise strong Sherlock series), but his character’s plot is so uninteresting that it’s difficult to care.

 Everyone in this film is wasted. Rapace, the terrific Swedish actress from the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is fatally underused as Heron. Stephen Fry is brought in as Holmes’ older, arguably smarter brother Mycroft, but he’s mostly there for a dumb gag involving his being a nudist, as fat naked people are inherently hilarious, apparently. The film is unbearably loud and frenzied, and its drab designs kill any chance for it even being dumb fun. One last thing: the eternally plucky Rachel McAdams was a welcome delight in the original film. Here, her character is given the short shift in a way that’s not only too quick, but outright infuriating for just how badly she’s handled. It’s a fitting metaphor for the movie: a one-time delight that’s curdled into a waste.

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