Holmes and Watson (2018): ‘Whatever Happened to the Holmes Spoof?’ – A Film Review



Will Ferrell is perhaps a marmite comedian, love him or hate him, he seems to be big and, now, tired or tiring. Holmes and Watson is a parody film, after parodies were killed off by the likes of Epic Movie and Disaster Movie, cashing in or ripping on the recent explosion of period pieces and the popular Sherlock Holmes series. Etan Cohen seems to have made a name for himself as a writer of comedy films but has begun directing; making this his second directorial seating since Get Hard. The experience in writing comedy isn’t always equal good comedy directing but at very least Get Hard got favourable reviews.


Where’s the Comedy?

Stylistically, the colours, costumes and sets look the part and there are some moments that mirror the types of CGI used in previous Sherlock Holmes films. This is all for the benefit of the film but it’s not really why you’d come into a comedy film. Jokes vary from disgusting, to spooth, to dark and that cynical look back in time. SPOILERS: There are many references to the good fortune of the Titanic and to the healthcare having been at a height – both run on the idea that they really weren’t but that wasn’t known then. END OF SPOILERS. There’s also a lot of physical comedy and some of it quite silly, but unfortunately usually crude. If you’re a fan of Will Ferrell then this will help your enjoyment of this film a lot, otherwise the unintelligent approach will get in your way.


Where’s the Story?

So, there are ideas and concepts but they often don’t go anywhere and characters are buffoonish, caricature-ish and… really just obviously their performers. Some of the sideline characters do a lot better. Ralph Fiennes is used little but done well, so is Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Whilst Lauren Lapkus brings a great character to the mix only for the character to get lost later on. Rebecca Hall gives her character a lot of charm, but moments with her also lose potential. This is the fundamental problem of the film. The film takes tangents to make jokes, sometimes at a stretch, which often don’t land the laughs they’re looking for but will distract from everything that is happening. They could lead to more comedic potential but are soon abandoned for more tangents. SPOILERS: They send a Telegram at one point that could have been a plot point but is never picked up again. They also assault the Queen to no repercussions and unfortunately these are few examples amongst many. END OF SPOILERS.



So apparently the film didn’t do well with test audiences and not only did it not do well but it did so badly, that Sony tried to sell the film to Netflix. Netflix apparently were not interested in the film. Money was spent and it looks the part but comedy writer or not, established director or not, star comedians or not, it just isn’t what it’s meant to be. It does seem that Holmes and Watson is far from bringing back the golden age of spoof films, whilst it does also seem like Will Ferrell has tired-out his potential.



Holmes (Will Farrell) and Watson (John C. Reilly) are challenged by a mystery murderer, who places the Queen in danger.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.

Films Mentioned

Disaster Movie (d. Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer USA 2008)

Epic Movie (d. Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer USA 2007)

Get Hard (d. Etan Cohen USA 2015)

Holmes and Watson (d. Etan Cohen USA 2018)

Sherlock Holmes (d. Guy Ritchie USA/Germany 2009)


Further Reading



Official Site

Interview with Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly

Interview with Rebecca Hall and Lauren Lapkus

Interview with Cast Answering IMDB Fan Questions

Behind the Scenes


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This was an analytical review of….

Holmes and Watson (d. Etan Cohen USA 2018)

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