Sherlock Holmes Reviews: A Bit Too Elementary, Watson?

Skepticism over Ritchie's new film

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The new Sherlock Holmes, for which action junkies and legions of Arthur Conan Doyle fans have waited with bated breath, is finally here. The eyeful of Victorian swashbucklery, directed by Guy Ritchie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the iconic Holmes and Watson, respectively, opened Christmas Day. The verdict? Critics are less than impressed. This Conanical Second Coming, they say, is merely one of moviemakers' goofier attempts to capture Baker Street magic on the big screen. Here's the rundown on reviewers' opinions of the movie's flaws, as well as the redeeming qualities of its strong cast:

  • Downey is Great, Movie is Bunk  "There are worse things," writes A. O. Scott for The New York Times, "than loutish, laddish cool, and as a series of poses and stunts, 'Sherlock Holmes' is intermittently diverting." His reserves greater praise for leading man Robert Downey, whom he declares "has more intelligence than the movie knows what to do with." Going a step farther than those calling the Holmes-Watson relationship a "bromance," Scott pokes archly at the "barely sublimated physical passion they manifest for each other in nearly every scene."
  • Correction: It's All Bunk  "Frankly, the guys on CSI use more deductive means of reasoning," says Time's Mary Pols. "It isn't surprising," she continues, "that Ritchie, a director who essentially keeps making the same glib, lively movie over and over again ... would turn Holmes into an action hero." What is surprising, to her mind, is that Downey "doesn't manage to overcome all that," despite what she praises as his general mental and verbal agility.
  • Unsurprising Disappointment  Mangling the great character of Sherlock Holmes is a bit of a tradition, Nathan Heller reminds readers at Slate. This most recent absurdity is merely "a reminder, if you needed one, that some key part of Hollywood's imagination never quite got unplugged from The Matrix."
  • Watch for the Watson-Holmes Partnership  David Denby's review for The New Yorker is still more trenchant: "The plot is perfervid hokum," writes Denby, "pumped up to justify the movie’s portentous look, and, for extra juice, it has squeezed pop elements from martial-arts movies, 'Fight Club,' and 'The Da Vinci Code.'" Anything good about it? "Downey and Law are terrific together. For me, watching them act is the movie’s principal pleasure."

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