Will Ferrell’s ‘Holmes & Watson’ Whacked by Critics: ‘Witless Sherlock Holmes Spoof’

“If there are any new jokes left to tell about Holmes, they’re nowhere to be found in the abysmal ‘Holmes & Watson,'” one critic writes

Last Updated: December 26, 2018 @ 12:52 PM

Sherlock Holmes might be the greatest detective in history, but he couldn’t find any laughs in the new Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly buddy comedy and Holmes parody “Holmes & Watson.”

Though the film from Columbia Pictures didn’t screen for critics before opening on Christmas Day, a few intrepid reviewers tracked it down, and after careful deduction, their findings were not good.

“If there are any new jokes left to tell about Holmes, they’re nowhere to be found in the abysmal ‘Holmes & Watson,’ which might be the worst feature-length film ever made about the ‘consulting detective’ from Baker Street,” Ignatiy Vishnevetsky writes in The A.V. Club.

Critics have said that while it had potential, it’s a far cry from the previous Ferrell and Reilly pairings, including “Talladega Nights” and most notably, Adam McKay’s “Step Brothers.” And while Ferrell is playing Holmes as an ego-driven type not far from Ron Burgundy, many critics agreed that Reilly often stands out and even has some charming moments with his love interest played by Rebecca Hall. Several noted a love scene between the two that parodies “Ghost,” in which they each lick frosting off a corpse.

And though the film directed by Etan Cohen is mostly a riff on the Guy Ritchie “Sherlock Holmes” movies, critics have noted that “Holmes & Watson” also has some post-modern gags that generally fall flat, including a scene in which they send a dick-pic via telegram, and another in which Watson tries on a red “Make England Great Again” hat. What’s more, critics have been in agreement that Ralph Fiennes as Holmes’s nemesis Moriarty is vastly underutilized.

See some of the choice reviews for “Holmes & Watson” below:

Alonso Duralde, TheWrap

“The results are singularly awful, but there are three people who can emerge unscathed from this fiasco: Rebecca Hall, who elicits mild chuckles (the closest this film gets to laughter) as an American doctor who thinks 19th century medicine is as modern as science gets; costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor (“The Brothers Bloom”), who brings color and wit to her period creations; and the marketing person at Sony who didn’t pre-screen the film for critics, thus quashing advance word and ensuring it would be seen too late to make the deadline for most Worst of the Year lists.”

Ignatiy Vishnavetsky, The A.V. Club

“One might call it a failure on almost every level — that is, if the movie ever gave the impression that it was trying to succeed. Instead, it’s pervaded by an air of extreme laziness. It’s cheap and tacky — a bizarrely dated parody of Ritchie’s Holmes (complete with a soundalike score) poisoned with rib-elbowing topical references and puerile gags. It’s the Sherlock Holmes movie with the red ‘Make England Great Again’ hat and the lactating Watson. It succeeds in only one respect. As a Christmas Day release that wasn’t screened in advance for critics, it managed to avoid our list of the worst films of 2018. It belongs at the top.”

David Ehrlich, Indiewire

“Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have re-teamed for a comedy that’s somehow even dumber than the one that first galvanized their incredible chemistry. That should have been a good thing. It isn’t. The trouble with ‘Holmes & Watson,’ a witless Sherlock Holmes spoof that supplies fewer laughs in its entirety than ‘Step Brothers’ does in its deleted scenes, is that the movie can never decide how dumb it wants to be. Or, more accurately, what kind of dumb it wants to be.”

Roger Moore, Movie Nation

“It’s an old fashioned broad character comedy of the type Ferrell generally avoids, seeing what the genre did to earlier ‘Saturday Night Live’ comics like Mike Myers. It’s more scripted than riffed, and the script is weak tea indeed.”

Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times

“True, the almost Dadaist, apparently improvisational banter they brought to ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby’ and ‘Step Brothers’ has been tempered this time by familiarity, the constraints of the period setting and the need for the movie to follow of the contours of a lackluster whodunit. But there is still intermittent joy to be found in their autumnal bromance, which reaches apotheosis here in a late-breaking musical duet from the show-tune veterans Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.”

Peter Debruge, Variety

“As far as Ferrell and Reilly are concerned, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s unstumpable sleuth and the thankless sidekick who recorded his every exploit are not just a great crime-solving duo but one of the great bromances of English literature — and therefore a natural target for the two actors’ ongoing exploration of dysfunctional friendships. The trouble is, Sherlock Holmes exists so large in audiences’ minds already that the pair’s uninspired take feels neither definitive nor especially fresh — just an off-brand, garden-variety parody.”

Frank Scheck, THR

“A gag involving the eating of raw onions isn’t so much running as limping. And there’s a strange amount of anachronistic Donald Trump-related humor, including bits about fake news and red MAGA hats (here reading “Make England Great Again”) that fall utterly flat in this context. But those are certainly preferable to the laborious scene in which Holmes and Watson desperately try to hide the body of the apparently dead queen, or the Disney-style musical number performed by Ferrell and Reilly that at least sounds authentic thanks to having been composed by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. A subplot involving the Titanic seems mainly designed to showcase a cameo by one of the stars of James Cameron’s film about the doomed ship, which presumably played funnier in the writers’ room than it does onscreen.”