A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Holmes & Watson is an over-the-top comedy starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as the famous literary detective and his loyal companion. Expect lots of slapstick violence, with tons of smacking and hitting. Guns are fired, characters are stabbed, and a corpse (and some blood) is shown. There's also bullying and kids fighting. On the sex front, there's frequent eyebrow-raising innuendo and racy jokes/references (including several about masturbation), kissing, and some sensual flirting and stripping (nothing graphic shown). Language includes a use of "f---ing," plus uses of "s--t" and other words. The main characters get comically drunk in one sequence and use cocaine (played for humor); there are also references to other drugs, cigarette and pipe smoking, and a joke about a young girl with alcohol on her breath.
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What's the story?
In HOLMES & WATSON, Sherlock Holmes (Hector Bateman-Harden) learns at a young age to keep his feelings deep inside and focus on his education. As an adult, Holmes (Will Ferrell) and his only friend, John Watson (John C. Reilly), attend the trial of Holmes' old nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes), and determine that the Moriarty in custody is an impostor, while the real one has disappeared. Later, Holmes is invited to a birthday party thrown for him by the queen (Pam Ferris). There, a corpse is found in a cake, and a note informs them that the queen's life is in danger. A new case is afoot! When an American doctor (Rebecca Hall) and her case study (Lauren Lapkus) enter the picture, Holmes and Watson find themselves befuddled by feelings for the women, and the clues they find simply don't add up. Holmes visits his brother, Mycroft (Hugh Laurie), for advice, and finally determines that the killer is someone close to him.
Is it any good?
This shockingly misguided assault of repetitive bad slapstick and sexual innuendo would be an almost complete disaster if not for the two leads' chemistry and the appealing period design. It probably seemed like a good idea to re-team Ferrell and Reilly for Holmes & Watson, given that they worked so well together in Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, and several Funny or Die videos, but a few things go fatally wrong here. Primarily, the whole concept overlooks the fact that Ferrell's humor works best when he plays childish/childlike characters; the intelligent, unemotional Holmes is precisely the opposite.
Plus, writer/director Etan Cohen (Get Hard) replaces the wonderfully weird, verbal, behavioral humor that Ferrell and Reilly specialize in with the most basic, broadest slapstick imaginable -- it's like something you'd expect from a Farrelly Brothers comedy. Jokes based on bashing characters in the face/poisoning them fall flat and then they are unwisely repeated, as if poking and prodding us into laughing. Even verbal jokes seem to be trying a little too hard. But a few small giggles pop up once in a long while, and a surprisingly fun musical number that surfaces at the 11th hour at least ends things with a small measure of goodwill that's otherwise missing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Holmes & Watson depicts drinking, smoking, and drug use. Are they played for laughs? Does the movie make substance use seem fun or appealing? Are there consequences? Why is that important?
How does this movie compare to other movies or shows about Sherlock Holmes?
How does the movie depict bullying? How does it affect the victim? How is it handled?
What's the friendship between the two main characters like? Is it an even/fair friendship, or does one friend give more than the other? Have you ever had a friendship like that?
- In theaters: December 25, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: April 9, 2019
- Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Rebecca Hall
- Director: Etan Cohen
- Studios: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude sexual material, some violence, language and drug references
- Last updated: July 16, 2020
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