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The central problem with this film can be summed up in one trope: They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot. Yes, this movie sucked, but it didn't have to suck.
I have to confess that I don't agree that a film like this was doomed to failure just from premise alone. I think that Will Ferrell is a funny actor, and Sherlock Holmes as a beloved pop culture icon is ripe for parody. This could have been a genuinely funny film if they writers bothered to put any effort into it. It had a workable premise, but it was executed VERY poorly.
The biggest piece of evidence I have for this is that this film doesn't seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be, ping-ponging between a straightforward Holmes story and a Denser and Wackier Bromantic Comedy spoofing the famous detective. I feel like the movie could've been pretty good if it took one of those and stuck with it, but it tries to do both at the same time. The result is a film that seems cluttered and unfocused.
The comedy is very lacking; most of the jokes are either too on-the-nose, dragged out for too long, or otherwise just juvenile and trite. The plot is threadbare and cliche, the characters are underdeveloped, and the constant anachronisms are very distracting.
That's not to say there aren't some positives. A few of the jokes are pretty damned funny, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have great onscreen chemistry, the ending scene is surprisingly badass, and the actors in general genuinely seemed to be putting in an effort for a good performance despite what they're made to work with. If the script were majorly reworked, this movie would've been a lot better instead of the dull, forgettable, paint-by-numbers film that we're given.
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