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Film / Holmes & Watson

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Holmes & Watson is a 2018 American mystery comedy film written and directed by Etan Cohen. The film stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as the eponymous characters, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, with Rebecca Hall, Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, and Ralph Fiennes also starring.

A comedic take on the famed literary characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, it follows them as they use their brilliant minds to stop rival Professor James Moriarty from assassinating Queen Victoria.

Do not confuse with the comic book Watson and Holmes.

Tropes in Holmes & Watson include:

  • Adaptational Dumbass: Sherlock and Watson are made out to be far, far dumber than they ever were in the books.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Holmes is far meaner to Watson than he ever was in the books, constantly putting him down and abusing him.
  • Adaptational Job Change: Instead of being Holmes and Watson's landlady as she was in the books, Mrs. Hudson is their housekeeper.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Mrs. Hudson, of all people, is revealed to be the mastermind.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The film mashes the Victorian and Edwardian eras together indiscriminately, which results in Queen Victoria attending a party aboard the RMS Titanic, a ship not launched until 10 years after her death. The film also features cameos by a middle-aged Albert Einstein and thirty-something Harry Houdini when both men would have been in their teens (very early teens in the case of Einstein) and decades away from achieving fame.
    • The film also has a few anachronistic Donald Trump jokes, e.g. a "Make England Great Again" fez worn by Holmes in the beginning of the movie.
    • And then you have the jokes about selfies. Complete with ducklips, or as the film calls them, "lips like a duck-billed platypus".
  • Anachronistic Animal: Sherlock has a hive of killer bees. Killer bees (more properly known as Africanized bees) are not a naturally occurring animal, but a hybrid honeybee subspecies that didn't exist until the 1950s, having been created at that time as a result of an ill-advised attempt by some Brazilian scientists to make a "superior" domestic honeybee.
  • Animal Assassin: Holmes is sent a mosquito infected with a deadly plague in an attempt to prevent him from testifying at Moriarty's trial.
  • As Himself: Billy Zane appears in the film, listed in the credits as playing "Billy Zane", even though he's for all intents and purposes playing Caledon Hockley, his character from Titanic (1997).
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • Holmes attempts this at several points throughout the movie, and fails every time. The scene in the ring is a parody of the boxing scene in 2009's Sherlock Holmes, which fails because Brawn completely ignores the initial distraction. The others fail due to miscalculation (the beehive), being drunk (pissing in the alley) or his mind not being focused on the task at hand (the bomb on the Titanic).
    • Watson also has a go at it in the bomb scene, but gives up almost immediately. Math is hard.
  • Batter Up!: Holmes wreaks havoc in 221B Baker Street while trying to swat a mosquito with a cricket bat.
  • A Bloody Mess: Inverted. When Watson attacks Holmes' birthday cake with a halberd, it starts leaking blood. Holmes initially assumes it is raspberry sauce.
  • Body in a Breadbox: Holmes discovers a body concealed in his giant novelty birthday cake.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: After being thrown out of the Hexagon, Watson returns with a folding chair and bludgeons Brawn into unconsciousness.
  • Clueless Detective: Holmes is this about half the time. The other half, he's more of a Genius Ditz.
  • Dead Man's Chest: Holmes and Watson spend a minute or so attempting to stuff Queen Victoria's body into a trunk that is too small for it.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Holmes had spent years locking his feelings away ever since he was humiliated at boarding school. After he reads about how much Watson looks up to him, he can’t stop himself from crying.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • The movie has some fun with the fact that cocaine could be legally bought in Victorian Britain, including a sequence where Holmes and Watson get high on it.
    • At one point, Dr. Hart says that in America, no citizen can be found guilty until after their case has been heard by a jury of white, property-owning men.
  • Finger Gun: In the epilogue, Watson makes this gesture at Moriarty.
  • Genius Ditz: Holmes comes across as this about half the time, such as being able to calculate the exact amount of force needed to squash a mosquito without shattering a pane of glass. The rest of the time, he is more of a Clueless Detective.
  • Ground by Gears: Watson is strapped to a giant gear in the Titanic's engine room, so his head will be crushed by a cog when the engines start turning.
  • His Name Is...: Klinger starts to explain the conspiracy before stopping and announcing he has a knife in his back. Holmes takes this as a metaphor, that he's been betrayed, before Klinger topples forward with a literal knife in his back.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Mrs Hudson is killed when Watson throws the bomb intended to kill Queen Victoria off the Titanic, and it lands in the rowboat she's in.
  • Hollywood Law: Moriarty's trial resembles nothing that has ever happened in a British courtroom. The judge wielding a gavel is just the beginning of the problems. Later, Dr. Watson is arrested and then sentenced to hang without any trial occurring in between.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: During Moriarty's trial, Watson and Holmes go through a long string of unusual euphemisms while attempting to explain to the court that the man in the dock is a masturbator. Eventually realization dawns and someone in the gallery says "Oh, he's a wanker!"
  • Instrument of Murder: The mastermind plots to assassinate Queen Victoria with a bomb concealed in a kettle drum.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Watson announces Holmes' arrival by bursting into the Old Bailey firing his revolver wildly: shooting—amongst other things—the judge's gavel, the clock, and—in a 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' gag—a spectator in the gallery.
  • Literal Metaphor: Klinger has an His Name Is... moment were he is about to tell Holmes the details of the conspiracy, but instead announces that he has a knife in his back. Holmes thinks this is metaphorical, i.e. he his partners have betrayed him or 'stabbed him in the back'. But then Klinger keels over with a literal knife in his back.
  • Miss Conception: After sharing his first kiss with Millie, Holmes tells her to get plenty of bed rest on the voyage home, as she is most probably pregnant, much to Watson's confusion:
    Watson: Pregnant? From a kiss?
    Holmes: Exactly.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Holmes reads Watson’s journal and discovers how much Watson adored him, he regrets accusing Watson as being the killer.
  • Non-Verbal Miscommunication: Watson misinterprets Holmes' attempts to suggest other means of killing himself as Holmes talking him down off the roof and telling him that he loves him.
  • Noodle Incident: Watson mentions several, with the most notable being when he thinks he is about to fight Klinger and says it "won't be the first time I've beaten up a cripple".
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: After rendering Queen Victoria unconscious, Holmes has to puppet her body in order to convince the Royal Guardsmen that she is fine.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: When Holmes finds the crumbs of Mrs Hudson's cake on Watson's plate, he realizes that Watson is trying to send him a message, as Watson would never have left crumbs of his favorite cake behind otherwise.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Holmes puts on a false mustache and Watson becomes incapable of recognizing him.
  • Pit Girls: A ring girl—dressed in Victorian lingerie—appears out of nowhere during the fight in the Hexagon. Lampshaded by Holmes:
    "It's six in the morning! Where did she come from?"
  • Plank Gag: Watson knocks out Queen Victoria when he turns around while carrying a camera with a tripod.
  • Potty Failure: After getting drunk, Holmes goes to piss and has an Awesomeness by Analysis moment as he calculates the perfect way to piss, which is spoiled when he discovers he has forgotten to unzip his pants.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: At the start, Holmes is growing a gigantic marrow of which he is inordinately fond. It is squashed by Watson's abortive suicide attempt.
  • Raised by Wolves: Millie was raised by feral cats, explaining why she has No Social Skills.
  • Really Gets Around: Mrs. Hudson, who is a 'slave to her carnality', and uses Dr. Watson's bedroom for her countless assignations. She suggests that he burn his bed on account of the unspeakable depravities that have occurred there.
  • Re-Cut: The International cut and American cut of the film have different openings. Confusingly, the American Cut's opening is called back to in later scenes in both versions, but the International cut lacking said scene makes the callback make no sense.
  • Related in the Adaptation: This movie depicts Mrs. Hudson as being Moriarty's daughter.
  • Running Gag:
    • Holmes experimenting with different hats, trying to find one that suits him.
    • Mrs. Hudson screwing famous historical figures such as Mark Twain, Harry Houdini, and Albert Einstein.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: While attempting to swat a mosquito with a cricket bat, Holmes unleashes a swarm of killer bees that badly sting Watson and then escape to terrorize London.
  • Self-Abuse: When the imposter Moriarty is tried for the real Moriarty's crimes, Holmes deduces that he couldn't have done it because he suffers from hand tremors due to excessive masturbation. This habit, and the (quasi-historically-accurate) pity and horror it inspires, are a running gag.
  • Sentenced Without Trial: Dr. Watson is arrested and then sentenced to hang without any trial occurring in between.
  • Sherlock Scan: Done multiple times.
  • Shooting the Swarm: At one point, the Trigger-Happy Dr. Watson attempts to shoot a swarm of killer bees with his revolver; to no effect, obviously.
  • Shout-Out: The film begins with a fake epigraph.
    "Logic is the sword by which we slay ancient superstitions. But lo, the heart has its own truths to teach us."
    Season 2, episode 4
  • Swiss-Army Appendage: Klinger, the one-armed tattooist, has had his missing hand replaced with a functioning tattoo gun. He mentions he also has a frosting attachment.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: In the international version, Watson thinks Holmes is doing this to him through sign language and resolves not to kill himself. Actually, Holmes was suggesting other ways of committing suicide.
  • Tested on Humans: Holmes feeds Watson a deadly poison to test his hypothesis on how the murder was carried out.
  • Trigger-Happy: Dr. Watson, who uses just about any excuse to reach for his pistol, including trying to kill a mosquito, and who announces Holmes' arrival in court with a fusillade of gunshots.
  • The Unfought: Moriarty is only unambiguously in the film in one scene.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Inspector Lestrade and his wife, although Holmes thinks it is the other way around.
  • Vehicle Vanish: In the epilogue, Moriarty is sitting in a saloon in Wyoming when he receives a threatening telegram from Holmes. Looking up, he sees Holmes and Watson sitting at the bar. Watson makes a Finger Gun gesture at him, and then a pair of patrons pass between him and the bar. When they pass, Holmes and Watson have vanished.
  • You Got Murder: Holmes is sent a box containing a mosquito infected with a deadly plague in an attempt to kill him before he can testify at Moriarty's trial.