Even less sleuth than spoof the second time around for this sequel two years later, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows plays out like an SNL parody of the usual beyond self-serious Hollywood blockbuster. Which would appear to warrant a deduction that, if the characters go to great lengths to refrain from taking themselves seriously, why should we?
Robert Downey Jr. does director Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock as the sort of certifiable kook who, if showing up out the blue today, would be deemed a crazed conspiracy theorist worried about the world situation, and likely in search of more than a few stalkees.
Holmes locks horns this time around with the formidable and possibly craftier than thou Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who may or may not be into far fetched global domination. There’s also a bit of highly convoluted business about the Crown Prince of Austria’s mystery assassination if not suicide, amid an unnecessary excess of sidebar criminal activity and stakeouts. Along with suspect miscreant anarchist sideshows, and gypsy busybodies led by that previous Dragon Tattoo goth girl, Noomi Rapace.
And that fortune teller Noomi is primarily assigned here as the gasping damsel in distress when she has recently demonstrated more solid sleuthing skills than joker gumshoe Downey Jr., brings into question why this Guy movie in more ways than one, has pretty much relegated the women to narrative afterthoughts. And counting Rachel McAdams as a dainty terrorist, and Kelly Reilly – whose doomed honeymoon with chronically perplexed Holmes sidekick and intended groom Dr. Watson (Jude Law), is interrupted by near drowning at the hands of her bromance rival for Watson’s attention, Sherlock himself.
Downey Jr. is intermittently amusing, armed as he is with an abundance of punchlines. And a rather bizarre affliction that might be termed the opposite of attention deficit disorder. In other words, an effective Sherlock send-up finding the eccentric eavesdropper strangely hampered by an inability to stop himself from noticing everything around him at the same time – and being simultaneously fixated and mesmerized by all prevailing clues in the immediate vicinity.
At times elegantly styled, yet perpetually clumsy in its reinvented plot execution, this Sherlock outing is all dressed up in hi-tech bells and whistles explosives but with nowhere in the way of new and different to go. An awkward mix of retro and rehash, ostentatious and shallow, Downey’s initially equal parts icon and idiot progressively deflates along the way as the body count rises. And with mysteries mockingly telegraphing solutions, somewhat before they even happen.
2 1/2 stars