Friday, March 12, 2010

Sherlock Homes (no, not THAT Sherlock Holmes)

A while ago, you might remember me waxing lyrical about Guy Ritchie's epic re-imagining of the world's greatest consulting detective; Sherlock Holmes.

You might also remember me mentioning the low-budget knock-off Asylum Films were producing, the 'other' Sherlock Holmes. Well, I got my mitts on a copy; and it was epic in an entirely different way.

Sherlock Holmes stars Gareth David-Lloyd and Dominic Keating. Anybody who's not a fan of Star Trek or Doctor Who might be scratching their heads as to exactly who these so-called 'stars' are; others (like me) will be salivating at the thought of seeing their favorite c-list sci-fi celebrities back in the saddle.

Gareth David-Lloyd, the ill-fated Ianto in BBC's Torchwood, stars as the inimitable Doctor Watson, opposite Ben Syder as Sherlock Holmes.

If you haven't heard of Ben Syder before, don't be dismayed. Until this point, the biggest feather in his acting cap was doing the voiceover of a Gaz de France employee safety video; but despite being completely wrong for the part (short, undistinguished, with a slight Welsh burr) you can't really knock the fellow's acting chops and he gets stuck into the part enthusiastically enough.

Together, David-Lloyd and Syder end up with a Holmes/Watson partnership that's far more in keeping with the old Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce portrayal than the more equitable relationship in Guy Ritchie's movie.

This slightly uneven Holmes and Watson duo are called into action to solve the mystery of a sunken treasury ship; and soon find themselves following some rather large footprints through the middle of London (or as close to Victorian London as Lllyenbumblewood, Wales, can approximate.)

And while this film is inferior to Guy Ritchie's big-budget Sherlock Holmes movie in just about every respect, it does feature one thing the Hollywood version was lacking... dinosaurs!

Yes, our dynamic crime-fighting duo soon find themselves on the trail of a pint-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex roaming the streets of Whitechapel (one of the more outlandish 'Jack the Ripper' theories, but by no means the least believable) which in turn leads them to the striking daughter of one of Doctor Watson's patients.

While this lithe lovely (who bears a passing resemblance to my blogging friend and actress Pandora Blake) gets her flirt on with Doctor Watson, Holmes continues hot on the trail of our naughty dinosaur; which running rampant through London and getting up to all sorts of mischief in the process (like eating this hapless gentleman.)

Eventually, the trail leads to the underground lair of a steel-uniformed madman; the infamous 'Spring-Heeled Jack' of Victorian myth. He proceeds to put the beat-down on Holmes and Watson before revealing himself to be none other than...

...Sherlock Holme's long-lost brother, Thorpe; played by British actor Dominic Keating. You might know him better as Lt. Malcom Reed from Star Trek: Enterprise.

If you're even vaguely into your Sherlock Holmes, this is the point at which the DVD goes flying across the room. Mediocre actors and an inane plot involving robotic dinosaurs is one thing, but I really resent people messing about with the perfectly serviceable Sherlockian canon.

I think Paul Bales, the Hollywood hack who churns out scripts for Asylum Pictures like confetti, might not have even read a single Sherlock Holmes story before he penned Sherlock Holmes.

Why else bother with 'Thorpe'? Especially when Holmes has an actual deviously brilliant brother to spar against; the inimitable Mycroft.

And if you are going to go down the route of inventing new members of the Holmes clan, please don't add insult to injury by having le nouveau frere refer to Holmes as 'Robert' in another clever 'twist' on established canon (Sherlock's real name is 'Robert,' apparently; a secret only his newly-invented brother knows.)

Anyway. After a stiff drink and about twenty minutes of cooling off, the stout of heart might just be brave enough to give this DVD a wipe and sling it back in the machine to watch the last twenty minutes.

Good luck to you if you do; it involves an aerial dogfight between Thorpe (in a steam-powered dragon) and Sherlock (in a hot air balloon) and, admittedly, some surprisingly adept computer graphics.

Meanwhile, the lovely lady from earlier in the plot scampers off with her own nefarious scheme to fulfill (I won't spoil the surprise) and it's up to Gareth David-Lloyd to save the day.

I'll be honest. I was desperate to like this film. It was filmed in Wales on a minuscule budget (reminding me of some student films I was involved with back in my days in Wales) and featured some plucky old sci-fi stars I was really rather fond of. Throw in Sherlock Holmes and some robotic dinosaurs and it seemed like it had the potential to be wonderful fun.

But in the end, it was just plain rubbish.

Not even one of those 'so bad it's good films.' Sherlock Holmes was just a disjointed, tedious, badly-written mess that insulted the intelligence of any unfortunate schlub foolish enough to rent it.

And it didn't have to be this way.

Admittedly, with such a small budget there was no way this direct-to-DVD monstrosity was ever going to be able to compete with Guy Ritchie's magnificent big-budget Holmes adventure; but there was so much that could have been done better.

A good thirty minutes could have been trimmed from the script to make the pacing at least slightly less sophomoric. The scriptwriter could have read a couple of Sherlock Holmes stories beforehand and created a plot that at least gave a nod to the institution which inspired it.

Ben Syder and Dominic Keating could even have swapped parts; and then we'd at least have a Sherlock Holmes who was slightly believable.

(Alternatively, this film might have been spared with some gratuitous nudity; but since it was aimed at a thoroughly PG audience there wasn't even that saving grace to defend it.)

So instead, we're left with an utterly pointless, tedious movie that's really not worth the time spent watching it. I generally try and give everything I review the benefit of the doubt; but in this case, doubt was about the only definable thing about this disjointed mess.

So my final verdict? Even the most dedicated fans of awful science fiction are advised to steer well clear. Sherlock Holmes is an unmitigated disaster from beginning to end.

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