Holmes and Watson Parent Guide
One of the worst films of 2018, this combines revolting sexual content with unappealing characters and failed attempts at comedy in a short run time that feels agonizingly long.
Parent Movie Review
Sherlock Holmes, fictional super sleuth created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1891, was the detective in 60 best-selling mysteries. One would assume that a movie featuring Holmes would be as fascinating as the written exploits. Yet Holmes & Watson is not. Why? Follow the clues and deduce the reasons.
First clue: the script. This film tells the story of Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) and his trusty friend (John C. Reilly), dedicated to solving the most difficult criminal cases. At a function at Buckingham Palace, Holmes cuts into a cake only to find a dead body and a warning that Queen Victoria (Pam Ferris) will be dead in four days unless he can apprehend the killer. Thus begins a quest marked more by luck than logic; in fact, Holmes is so witless one begins to wonder if he is actually a boon to law enforcement or an impediment to it. Viewers will almost certainly figure out whodunnit faster than does Holmes. The script is also marked by numerous attempts at comedy that repeatedly fall flat. There was only a smattering of laughter in the screening I attended. The sole saving grace of this script is that it is brief – the film is only 89 minutes long, but it feels much, much longer.
Second clue: the characters. It is always a challenge to recreate an iconic character on the big screen but Holmes & Watson fails miserably. Will Ferrell’s Holmes is arrogant – as he is in the books – but with little to be arrogant about. While the traditional Holmes character is a man capable of rigorous logic and careful deductions, Ferrell’s Sherlock is vain, obsessed with his public image, and prone to wild deductions without any basis in fact. These flaws make his near-fatal mistakes almost inevitable. Watson, too, falls short of his literary counterpart, failing in one scene to properly determine if a character is actually dead. The two characters are also confused about their feelings for each other, finally acknowledging their mutual attraction in a very strange musical number. (The song contains verses about a hanging, which is definitely off-putting.)
Third clue: negative content. Holmes & Watson’s positive spin on drug use, particularly cocaine and heroin, will upset parents, but the biggest concern in this production is its appalling and disturbing sexual content. Masturbation jokes are constant, running throughout the film from beginning to end. And both main characters have creepy love interests with women as well as definite homo-erotic feelings for one another. Watson meets an American doctor, Grace Hart (Rebecca Hall) with whom he becomes infatuated. He dreams about playing strip chess with her and the two share a kiss. The worst scene in the film involves an autopsy the two physicians conduct together. They caress the dead body while gazing steamily at each other, as Watson sensuously scoops whipping cream out of the corpse’s navel. After the autopsy they speak seductively about their skills with knives and flaying skin. This scene is stomach-churningly awful and I felt physically nauseated while watching it. At the same time, Holmes becomes aroused by Dr. Hart’s companion, Millie (Lauren Lapkus), a young woman raised by feral cats with the mental age of a four year old. Although all is not as it seems, these scenes remain unsettling.
With all these flaws, it doesn’t take extraordinary deductive skills to conclude that Holmes & Watson is a cinematic disaster which should be avoided by anyone looking for quality entertainment.Directed by Etan Cohen. Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Ralph Fiennes. Running time: 89 minutes. Theatrical release December 25, 2018. Updated April 18, 2020
Watch the trailer for Holmes and Watson
Holmes and Watson
Rating & Content Info
Why is Holmes and Watson rated PG-13? Holmes and Watson is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for crude sexual material, some violence, language and drug references
Violence: A child is repeatedly bullied, and in one instance is tricked into kissing a donkey’s backside. Men strike each other with their hands and with a cricket bat. Main characters jump out of windows to avoid a killer bee attack. A main character repeatedly fires a gun in a courtroom for no apparent reason other than to get attention. A man falls from the gallery, with the implication that he was shot. There are no consequences for this firearm misuse. A murdered corpse is found in a cake. A main character poisons a friend to see if his theory about a murder is correct. He withholds the antidote until he is certain despite his friend’s suffering. A main character pulls a gun on a friend who he does not recognize because of a disguise. Children are seen fighting in a boxing match. There is a violent boxing match and one character grabs a chair and repeatedly beats his opponent. Two men are stabbed. A woman is hit in the face with a camera. Believing she is dead, other characters slam her into a wall and then try to stuff her into a trunk: they punch and kick her body. They grab a large knife with which to dismember her. A main character hits a friend on the head with a croquet mallet. Characters sing a song that involves lyrics about hanging. Female character fire guns. A man is tied to large gears and informed that he will die when a bomb explodes. A bomb explodes.
Sexual Content: A child is tricked into kissing a donkey’s backside. Non-stop masturbation jokes. A main character jokes about inserting a carrot in someone’s backside. It is implied that a character has had sex. A main character becomes sexually aroused while watching a woman eat an onion. An autopsy scene is filled with extreme sexual innuendo. A main character flirts with and fantasizes about a woman who he has been told has the mental capacity of a four year old. A main character dreams about playing strip chess with a colleague A drunk man sends an “intoxigram” – a telegram filled with sexual innuendo. He exposes himself and discusses his genitals (not seen on screen). A character jokes about getting punched in the genitals. A main character is seen wearing nothing but long underwear and a corset. A picture is seen showing two men’s faces on cardboard cutouts of bare-breasted women. Two men sing a song that acknowledges their love for each other. Two male characters kiss two female characters.
Profanity: Approximately one dozen profanities, including one sexual expletive and multiple scatological curses.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A main character talks on more than one occasion about using cocaine. The vial is seen but actual use is not shown. Two main characters are shown behaving strangely after using cocaine. A main character demands heroin. A doctor offers heroin to a character. There is some social drinking. Men in a gym smoke to make their lungs strong and healthy. Two main characters get very drunk and urinate in public afterwards. A main character is shown with a pipe.
Page last updated April 18, 2020
Holmes and Watson Parents' Guide
Holmes takes Watson for granted throughout most of the film. Why do we fail to appreciate the skills and talents and loyalty of others? What can you do to acknowledge what others do for you?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Any fan of Sherlock Holmes stories should read The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Dolye. The original stories can’t be beat for anyone who relishes a good mystery.
What if Sherlock Holmes had been a woman named Charlotte Holmes? Sherry Thomas tells a compelling story in A Study in Scarlet Women.
Teen readers will also be intrigued by Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study in Charlotte, first in the Charlotte Holmes series. Unrelated to Sherry Thomas’s books, these novels relate the adventures of two teens descended from the original Holmes and Watson.
What about Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’ arch-nemesis? Readers who want to learn more about this diabolical villain can settle into Anthony Horowitz’s Moriarty.
Author Laurie R King imagines a young apprentice to the retired detective. The first novel in the series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: or, On the Segregation of the Queen introduces Holmes (and us) to Mary Russell, a 15 year old with a rare intellect and impressive deductive powers.
The most recent home video release of Holmes and Watson movie is April 9, 2019. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Robert Downey Jr. stars as a pugilistic detective in the 2009 release of Sherlock Holmes.
What happens when the world’s greatest detective starts to lose his mental faculties? Sir Ian McKellen stars as an aging Sherlock Holmes who is trying to remember his last case in Mr. Holmes.
The Sign of Four is a retelling of one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic Sherlock Holmes tales.
Sherlock Gnomes tells the story of a garden gnome detective hired to find other gnomes who have gone missing. Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective also pitches the Sherlock Holmes story at a child’s level.