Who’s In It: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly
The Basics: The brilliant but eccentric Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) has just solved his latest case, a series of murders involving occult sacrifices conducted by the charismatic and kind of sexy Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). But post-case depression always sets in whenever Holmes has nothing to challenge his OCD detective skills, so despite the best efforts of his best man friend, Watson (Jude Law), Holmes gets drawn back into the Blackwood affair when strange happenings suggest that the dearly departed villain has risen from the dead to wreak havoc on all of London. A couple of secret Freemason-like meetings and a bloodless romantic-ish encounter with Rachel McAdams later, Holmes finds himself going CSI on grungy metaphysical science labs and running through slaughterhouses while exchanging fisticuffs with foggy old London’s great unwashed.
What’s The Deal: Director Guy Ritchie has managed to tear himself away from his bread-and-butter, gritty British crime capers like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and RocknRolla, to make a handsomely mounted update of Sir Conan Doyle’s beloved detective series. But while it hits all the right notes required of a 21st-century action adventure blockbuster (a la Pirates of the Caribbean or Iron Man), Sherlock Holmes is more mildly diverting than memorable or groundbreaking. Even with engaging turns from RDJ and Law (who have great bromantic chemistry together), this Christmas release feels destined to languish as one of the last films of the ‘00s, instead of the kind of film that could launch the coming decade in cinema.
Where We’ve Seen All Of This Before: Thrilling chases? Check. Witty banter? Check. But where’s the something special that will make Sherlock Holmes a franchise-worthy kickoff? Ritchie’s in the unfortunate position of debuting Sherlock at the tail end of a decade that’s already seen Robert Downey, Jr. as a wise-cracking, damaged hero (Iron Man), already delighted in and grown tired of man-on-man love (I Love You, Man, The Hangover, anything Judd Apatow has touched), and been there, done that with crime procedurals both scientific ("CSI," "CSI: Miami," "CSI: New York") and observational ("The Mentalist"). So while Downey, Jr. brings a captivating vigor to Sherlock Holmes, the steps he takes on the way to solving his case feel disappointingly familiar.
Who Has The Best Chemistry: Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, whose characters have been engaged in a torrid bromance for years when the story begins. Their interactions trump RDJ’s scenes with Rachel McAdams as Sherlock’s former lover Irene Adler, a con artist who he still supposedly carries a torch for. Even so, it’s clear that while Sherlock can live without Irene in his life, he’d fall to pieces without Watson around, as evidenced by his jealous rejection of Watson’s comely fiancée (played by the luminous Kelly Reilly). But if Watson has his heart, the tall, dark, handsome and brilliant Blackwood surely captivates Holmes’ mind. With such hunky competition, McAdams never stood a chance.
When You Should See It: When you’re stuck with your family on Christmas and looking for the perfect crowd-pleasing blockbuster to keep everyone happy. It’s PG-13, family-friendly, and if there’s any swearing in it you can’t tell because everyone’s speaking 19th century British.