Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Case of the Revamped Franchise

While Guy Ritchie's (Snatch; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) rollicking, stylized direction may not be the obvious choice for bringing the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes to the big screen, Ritchie does a solid job of endearing the iconic sleuth to multiplex audiences of today. His Sherlock Holmes is a lively, entertaining outing, led by a never-more-likable Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law - though its central mystery turns out to be pretty trite.

It may owe a bit to Burton's Sweeney Todd, but Ritchie quickly establishes a fun and creepy world in his imagining of Holmes's Victorian underbelly. There are plenty of fisticuffs in this Holmes, and while its action set pieces are impressive, Downey's Holmes is best when he's quipping and deducing. Watson and Holmes's snappy back-and-forths propel the story so that you barely notice the hackneyed plot until the game is already well afoot, and the script (by committee, of fairly newbie action writers Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg) loses some steam in the third act. Still, Downey and Ritchie have so much fun along the way that it's hard to care too much.

The film is far and away Ritchie's biggest hit, and he and the cast have already signed on for a sequel. Bring it on, I say. Sherlock Holmes is a movie universe to which I would happily return. Here's hoping that the next entry is a bit less, well...elementary. (Eh? Eh?)

Grade: B

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