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Sunday, June 27, 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)

People were both excited and up in arms about this make-over of the beloved detective. Making Holmes a brainiac action figure isn’t off the mark at all, he was never a Nero Wolfe armchair detective; and the plot, an unfathomable Da Vinci Code burgoo, works well enough. Better yet are the core characterizations that view Holmes & best pal Dr. Watson as a Victorian Odd Couple. (Jude Law must be the best Watson since James Mason stole MURDER BY DECREE/’79 from Christopher Plummer.) If only producer Joel Silver & megger Guy Ritchie didn’t overload the film with explosions, zap-edited fights & tricked up explanatory CGI. We never get to match wits with the great man. Mark Strong makes an impact as a creepy villain (even if his ‘death’ is a hoary theatrical trick), but no one else makes much impression. Except, of course, for Robert Downey, Jr. whose much-admired Holmes self-destructs. His accent seems perfect . . . until you notice that no one else has one! (Always a bad sign.) And his mad hatter line readings never let up. It’s like watching Anthony Hopkins at his show-offy worst.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Jeremy Brett, especially in the earlier Granada TV episodes, is Sherlock Holmes. But for Holmes on film try Billy Wilder’s mutilated melancholy masterpiece, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES/’71 (note our poster) or, from Herbert Ross & Nicholas Meyer, THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION/’76 with its remarkable cast & Robert Duvall having the same ‘perfect accent’ troubles with his Watson that Downey has with his Holmes.

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