Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law return as our iconic Holmes and Watson, and even if there's a bit of sequelitis suffered here, it still makes for some pretty reliable fun....
Warner / 129 Minutes / 2011 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: June 12, 2012
Guy Ritchie and company have found robust financial success rerouting the Sherlock Holmes franchise as a set of modern action flicks with handsome movie stars in them, but is there anything to these new pictures aside from cutting-edge CGI effects and MTV rat-a-tat editing? I remain in steady applause at the Robert Downey, Jr. renaissance, but his Sherlock films feel like Johnny Depp's Pirates pictures: there's an ample amount of scenery-chewing big-movie magic happening here, but it all feels vacant and pointless somehow. These films are fun to watch, of course, but where's the beef?
Things literally start off with a bang in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, an explosion that introduces us quickly to Holmes (Downey) and Watson (Jude Law) and how they are embroiled in a new game of cat-and-mouse with Holmes' longtime nemesis Moriarty (Jared Harris), a vicious mastermind who has Sherlock's demise at the top of his to-do list. There are fiancees (Kelly Reilly), alluring gypsy seers (Noomi Rapace), and even Sherlock's brother (Stephen Fry) who participate in the shenanigans as Holmes and Watson progress through the adventures at hand in hopes that they'll survive Moriarty's attacks.
There's no question that Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a crowd-pleasing flick - it's light and zippy enough to accompany your popcorn-and-soda intake wonderfully - but its vapidity as a narrative undermines the intelligence and gravitas at the center of the Sherlock Holmes mythos. I don't mean to say that every Sir Arthur Conan Doyle needs to be leaden and over-serious to be successful, but the fellow at the center of the antics in Game of Shadows is Sherlock in name only: you could literally affix different monikers on Law and Downey here and still have a lean, forgettable actioner on your hands.
That being said, I feel a familiar minority status in my rantings here - as a diverting, staccato action/mystery, one could certainly do worse than Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I doubt the movie will have much in the way of legs - it won't figure prominently on peoples' Blu-ray shelves in a year or two - but who cares? Rent or buy the disc, pop it in, and fast-paced, intermittently thrilling events will ensue. If that's enough to meet your Sherlock quota, then you're covered here.