Movie Review - Mr. Holmes

Bill Condon directed this adaptation of a novel that feels like melancholy fan-fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In many ways, it also feels like Condon's previous films Gods and Monsters as well as Kinsey, except it's not as good as those two near-masterpieces. This film probably feels similar because he employs the actor from one and the actress from the other, and seems to have them playing almost the exact same characters. The problem is this film lacks the humor and the importance to make me care about anything here.

Oscar-nominee Ian McKellen stars as Sherlock Holmes at the age of 82 in some time not long after World War II. He retires to a home in the English country somewhere. He has a house-keeper named Mrs. Munro, played by Oscar-nominee Laura Linney, and she has a prepubescent son named Roger, played by Milo Parker.

Sherlock seems to be there to live out his remaining days, which doesn't appear to be long. He's very old. He walks with a cane. He's certainly not as spry. A simple fall could supremely hurt or incapacitate him. His speech is slowed, and his memory is not as good as it was, and it's getting worse.

At the top of this film, Sherlock returns from a trip to Japan where he wanted to get prickly ash from Hiroshima. He thinks the prickly ash will help to improve his memory. Being that Sherlock is regarded as the greatest detective, obviously his memory is very important. His most-renown power is his ability to simply look at someone and deduce where they've been and what they've done instantaneously, which requires a sharp mind, a very sharp mind.

Written by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on Mitch Cullin's novel, this film is effective in showing Sherlock's debilitation physically, but his mental acuity is never really put into question or shown in jeopardy. McKellen was better-used as playing an old James Whale in Gods and Monsters in terms of the mental problems. I thought it would become the male version of Still Alice but it doesn't. Sherlock is still the greatest detective, just in a frail body now and not being used to solve the trickiest of cases.

There's an odd premise here that because of his great deductive skills and insistence on logic that it's resulted in him having a lonely life where he doesn't understand messy, human emotions. He's like Mr. Spock from Star Trek, but Roger is a total fan-boy who keeps reminding Sherlock of himself. Roger is essentially emulating Sherlock, pushing him in a narcissistic way to like the little boy, as a way of proving he's not a machine and can care for a human as a human.

Along the way, Sherlock has flashbacks to his last case, which was 35 years ago. Sherlock started writing about it but it's Roger who pushes him to keep writing about it. The case involves a woman named Ann Kelmot, played by Hattie Morahan. Her husband fears for her ever since she had several miscarriages but also believes she's up to something.

I'd hate to say it, but this case is very predictable. The way Condon telegraphs it in advance is weird, but honestly, it's a case that the little boy, Roger, could have solved. It wasn't a case worthy of Sherlock Holmes. It wasn't worthy of a movie at all.

The movie succeeds when it's about Sherlock versus Mrs. Munro who doesn't approve of his relationship with her son, Roger. McKellen and Linney have good chemistry and bounce well off each other. Their conflict however builds to a moment that is utterly ridiculous where Sherlock is distinguishing between bees and wasps, but I still liked the performances.

There's also a subplot in Japan that involves great and very handsome, Asian actors like Hiroyuki Sanada and Zak Shukor, but it does nothing with them. The film also makes the odd choice of never showing the face of Dr. John Watson. I don't understand what that's about. I would have been better served watching an episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot, or just reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for thematic elements, some disturbing images and incidental smoking.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 mins.


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