December 24, 2009

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Sherlock Holmes (PG-13)
A Victorian-era loner and his one best buddy solve devious crimes and have smashing adventures in Sherlock Holmes, the ultimate in lit nerd popcorn movies.

Or, if you tend to put your pop culture cart before the source material horse, it’s House set in ye olde times.

And as with the Fox dramady with the curmudgeonly doctor, Holmes is at its very best when we’re watching that proto-bromance between the shaggy, scraggly, slightly needy Holmes (Robert Downey Jr., so in his element) and the long-suffering Watson (Jude Law). The movie opens just as our duo is foiling the strange and nefarious crimes of Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong, playing, more or less, a British Hitler). The pair, with a little help from Scotland Yard, are able to save a girl about to be murdered, and jail Blackwood. But wait, Blackwood later warns, my work has just begun. Whatevs, execution-boy, Holmes says. He has bigger problems after all — long-time compatriot Watson is about to, of all treacherous things, get married and leave the rooms they share together.

But, lucky for Holmes, Lord Blackwood appears to make good on his threats to continue his dastardly deeds post-death. When his grave is broken out of and Blackwood is seen walking out of the cemetery, Holmes is able to convince Watson that the game is afoot.

And because even a jolly bromance needs some romance, that game includes Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a dark-haired American gal who is a con-man after Holmes’ own heart. She’s mixed up in the Blackwood mess working an angle for a mysterious someone — or not so mysterious if you know anything about the Holmes stories.

Not to make everything in the movie universe about Avatar but for me this movie is a good example of what was missing from that technically amazing but emotionally flat 3Dstravaganza. Here, as in Avatar, we have some silly story points, some goofy dialogue (though it’s a kind of loving goofiness that the movie revels in), a by-the-book romance and plenty of plot points that you can see coming. But Sherlock Holmes is fun. I enjoyed it — giggled a few times and laughed out loud several times. The movie is a joyous adventure, giddy even. Holmes is a delightful character; Holmes and Watson have more chemistry than a whole Netflix queue of romantic comedy pairs. It is gleeful pleasure to watch them follow the movie’s story and action faithfully and even more enjoyable when they get a bit silly with it. Sure, Holmes’s special effects probably won’t win any awards, but the movie has a sense of adventure that no amount of CGI can recreate. And it has a perfect setup for a sequel, which, for once, I eagerly await. B+

Rated PG-13 for thematic material including violence, disturbing images and a scene of suggestive material. Directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg and Lionel Wigram (from characters by Arthur Conan Doyle), Sherlock Holmes is two hours and 10 minutes long and will open in wide release on Friday, Dec. 25. It is distributed by Warner Bros.