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Sherlock Holmes (2009)

by on 2012/01/15

“Meat… or potatoes?”

* * *

The Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have been a bit of an obsession of mine for some years. I’ve read and reread them. Then reread them again.

As with many of my obsessions, it morphed into an unhealthy feeling of protectiveness. Every screen portrayal of the 221B Baker Street detective filled me with discomfort and, at times, something approaching rage. That is, until I saw the Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on Granada Television.

Brett was whippet thin, his fine features seemingly made of alabaster, highlighted by his incredible aquiline nose. Brett was imbued with the same twitchy energy and sensitive Siamese-cat demeanor I imagined when I read the Sherlock Holmes books.

For me, Brett was Sherlock Holmes, mind and body. Brett is irreplaceable.

So when Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes was made, there was that old protective feeling again, returning like beaten junkhouse dog. I purposely avoided the 2009 adaptation in the theatres. It wasn’t until I couldn’t take it any more – curiosity got the better of me – that I bought it used.

The first screening left me with a feeling that was …bad. I’ve since screened it again and my thoughts are a bit more rational this time.

I’ve decided that it is actually a good little movie. It looks great – the settings, the clothes, the lighting, the soundtrack. It is reasonably well plotted, the action moves along nicely. Jude Law (eXistenZ) and Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) are consistently charming. The dialogue is interesting. Robert Downey Jr. (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) is wonderful as always.

 Mark Strong as the villainous Lord Blackwood is the perfect villain for this steam punk melodrama. There’s a lovely little occult thread, which I am a huge sucker for.

Here’s the rub, dear friends. ‘Tis no Sherlock Holmes.

Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) has created something so butch, so testosterone-laden that there isn’t any Sherlock Holmes to be found under all of that sweating, soot-covered manliness.

Yes, Sherlock Holmes was known for his unusual strength and boxing abilities but I can’t imagine him showing off his kettle-bell toned, beefcake body for a bit of slap and grapple in the ring. (The open-handed slaps Downey delivers to his opponents, were a nice touch though).

It is similarly tough to imagine Holmes nude and shackled to bed with only a pillow (and shackle key) to hide his shame.

Rachel McAdams is a lovely little slip of a thing, but she isn’t Irene Adler, the woman. Jude Law was simply too peevish and flawed to be the steady Dr. Watson.

If the movie had been called Herlock Sholmes or Locksher Solmeh, I would have been fine. Just fine.

But it wasn’t,  so I am not.

* * *

128 minutes

Rated PG-13 occult violence, lovely ladies in peril and beefcake, beefcake and more beefcake

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