Starring: Ian McKellan, Milo Parker, Laura Linney, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Hiroyuki Sanada
Rated PG for Thematic Elements, Some Disturbing Images and Incidental Smoking
"Mr. Holmes" is an attempt to appeal to the crowd that made Miramax so popular in its heyday: older viewers who value acting and storytelling over special effects and superheroes. That would be all well and good if the movie was worth seeing, which it isn't.
The bulk of the film takes place in 1947. Sherlock Holmes is 93, and while not necessarily sick, he's well aware that his time on Earth is limited. His memory is beginning to fail him, and he wants to solve one last final case before he dies. The son of his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Linney), a young lad named Roger (Parker) is eager to help him with his case and his beekeeping. In an attempt to keep his memory intact, he travels to Japan in search of an herb that will help stave of senility.
There are three plot threads in this movie, and sadly, none of them is of any real interest. The one in Japan is the least successful. Apart from being trite, it's completely redundant. Cutting it out could have only helped the film. And this is in a film that is in badly need of focus to begin with. It takes forever to get going, and when it does move along, it's usually in a contrived fashion.
The high level of acting keeps things from becoming too tedious. Then again, could we expect anything less from the likes of Ian McKellan, Laura Linney and Hiroyuki Sanada? Didn't think so. Young Milo Parker also impresses; he's more than capable of holding his own with his higher-wattage co-stars. He's intelligent and shrewd but still innocent, which makes him quite likable.
Sadly, they're all in a story without direction (and one in which seemingly half the dialogue is unintelligible). Once the film narrows its focus in the final third, it gains some narrative momentum, but the plot is contrived and is always on the verge of going over-the-top.
The film's theme, about how sometimes fiction is preferable to logic, is presented with some skill, but I just wish that it was presented in a cleaner, less messy production.
There is some good news, however. Ian McKellan did not like filming this movie because of the discomfort his costumes caused him. Considering the film's low quality and the fact that it has arrived with barely any marketing, I highly doubt that the actor will have to don these costumes again. For everyone else who is eager to get their Sherlock Holmes fix, there's always the specials with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.