Sherlock Holmes, legendary sleuth of 19th-century literature, is famous for his superhuman powers of deduction. No way could he figure out “Sherlock Holmes” the movie, a crass commercial monstrosity that doesn't make sense beyond its attempt to wring some holiday dollars out of bored families while merely pretending to be an update of the Arthur Conan Doyle character.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law take on the roles of Holmes and his faithful sidekick, Watson. Law walks away the less blemished of the two, turning in a brawny, somewhat brainy counterweight to Downey's version of the great detective, with hair like an “American Idol” finalist and a conviction that talking really, really fast is an indication of extreme smarts.
They're up against a shady Aleister Crowley type named Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) who has some sinister plan, but we don't know what it is until the end of the movie. Scenes open and close without relation to those near it. Except they always involve Holmes and other characters bantering, or kicking butt, or talking really, really fast about meaningless evidence. Rachel McAdams also shows up on screen a few times. I didn't catch her character's name or what she had to do with the movie except as a romantic foil to Holmes. They got together and bantered a few times, and kicked some butt, and Holmes continued to talk really, really fast. It was difficult to figure out why none of it was romantic or exciting or mysterious. And then, as the credits flashed, it was obvious.
British director Guy Ritchie helmed this overproduced, hyperventilating pastiche of Hollywood action-adventure movies, and the result is an insane answer to “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” crossed with the worst “MacGyver” episode you ever saw. This is a movie that doesn't even explain who Sherlock Holmes is. Is he a police detective? A private investigator? “The question,” he tells Watson during a rare moment when you can understand what they're talking about, “is to what end.” Some mysteries have no answers. (PG-13) 129 min. S HIIII