Going to see the same big-screen movie four times in two weeks is a ridiculous luxury. Even if you have one of those film deals where you can see a dozen movies a month for a set fee, seeing a movie four times means that you spent at least six hours viewing the movie itself, and at least another four getting to-and-from the theater and sitting through previews, etc. And ten hours of your time in a given two week period, is not a cheap price to pay. (Spoilers will be the price you pay if you read further, so be forwarned: SPOILERS! [Foghorn noise])
And yet, after four viewings of Holmes and Watson, I find myself still as pleased as I originally felt walking out of the theater. It still surprised my with laughs a few times, and Will Ferrell's performance started reminding me of a very dear friend's delivery. And after four times, I also came to realize that one of the things that endears me the most about Holmes and Watson is the story it tells.
John Watson, the best and most loyal friend on the planet, sees the greatness in Sherlock Holmes beyond even the cheering throngs of Holmes and Watson's London. He goes along with whatever outlandish idea Sherlock has for him, including the disguise "down-on-his-luck horse shit salesman," in which, rather than protesting having manure smeared on him, Watson immediately drops into character, calling out "Horse shit for sale! Who will buy my horse's shit?" In pushing Watson to such limits for parody's sake, Holmes and Watson is putting one of Watson's most endearing qualities right out in front: He believes in Sherlock Holmes. Always and devoutly.
Things start to turn, ever-so-gently, when Watson meets the woman of his dreams, Dr. Grace Hart, whose admiration for him brings up the possibility that he should really be a true partner to Sherlock Holmes, and not just "the guy who gets sent to the companion's chamber at the Diogenes Club." It's Mycroft, of course, who sparks an opposite reaction in Sherlock, implying that someone as close to Sherlock as John could simulate Moriarty's genius by just observing Holmes himself.
Classic story, one party wants full partnership, the other's family sews seeds of mistrust. And, once separated, they realize their true love for each other. Whether or not you agree that Holmes and Watson is a comedy, I think we can all identify it as a romance. Watson finds love, Holmes finds love, and their giving into those loves makes them able to finally love each other. Who'd have thought that a nominally non-Johnlock film would break ground with Sherlock singing the words, "Why do I ache with shame while moaning Watson's name? I can-not deduce the reason why . . ."
Coming back together, Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson are a better, more solid detective duo than ever before. They quickly save the day, blow up the baddie, and bid bon-voyage to their lady friends (interesting how Grace and Millicent open the boys' hearts and they shuffle off to leave the boys alone together). Holmes and Watson's final appearance, in Professor Moriarty's frontier saloon and subsequent ghosting him, is the perfect shorthand to their attaining a level that makes even that criminal mastermind no match for the abilities of an integrated Sherlock and John.
That simple story, told in such a silly manner, is still a very good story of the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson. I could completely have seen other hands shaping this thing as a drama with the very same plot beats and coming out with a magnificently epic tale. Would I rather have had that movie? Maybe for some other Sherlockians who missed out getting enough joy out of this one, but for me, this was a tale of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson that meant something.
What didn't I get out of it after four viewings? All the dates on all the newspapers. It seems to take place late in 1892 -- the perfect year for something so non-Canonical in its Moriarty take. I also wasn't able to catch all of the flavors that "Sherlock Cones Ice Cream" offers in the dream sequence! I got "The Sign of the Four Flavors," but there are five others, all Canonical! Also, exact quotes! "Back to your monkey-work, Hudson!" stuck with me on day one, because I like monkeys. But there are some others, including the whole musical number, that I'm dying for exact wording on.
But it does lift my spirits. I will say that for it. "The game is a-starting!"