Downey Picks Up Sherlock Holmes' Magnifying Glass

Fictional detective Sherlock Holmes has been the topic of films some 200 times, and this weekend he's on the case again. The new movie Sherlock Holmes stars Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock. Jude Law is Dr. Watsonn.

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And now for another fictional character who has appealed across generations, Sherlock Holmes has shown up in films some 200 times at last count, and this weekend he's on the case again.

Kenneth Turan has this review of the film with Robert Downey Jr. in the role.

KENNETH TURAN: There's a mystery at the heart of "Sherlock Holmes" and it's not the one the great master of detection has been called on to solve. It's the age-old question of how a film that has so many good things going for it can turn out to be solid but not spectacular.

We expect more when Robert Downey Jr. is in fine form as the world's greatest consulting detective. There's an excellent villain here as well, master criminal Lord Blackwood, a man who dabbles in the black arts, says enigmatic things like: death is only the beginning, and actually manages to come back from the grave.

(Soundbite of movie, "Sherlock Holmes")

Mr. JUDE LAW (Actor): (as Dr. John Watson): I pronounced the man dead myself.

Mr. ROBERT DOWNEY (Actor): (as Sherlock Holmes): What are the facts?

Mr. LAW: (as Dr. John Watson): You're not taking this seriously, are you, Holmes?

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Sherlock Holmes) Yes, as you should. It's a matter of professional integrity. No girl wants to marry a doctor who can't tell if a man's dead or not.

TURAN: Downey's Holmes is as much Victorian action hero as master deducer, a buff and muscular lad who likes to indulge in bare-knuckle brawling.

(Soundbite of fighting)

TURAN: In addition to creating a new personality for Holmes, the film wants to give more respect to the character of Holmes's wingman, Dr. John Watson. He's played by Jude Law and he now bickers with Holmes like Jack Lemmon fought with Walter Matthau in "The Odd Couple."

(Soundbite of movie, "Sherlock Holmes")

Mr. LAW: (as Dr. John Watson) I am psychologically disturbed.

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Sherlock Holmes) How so?

Mr. LAW: (as Dr. John Watson): Why else will I continually be led into situations where you deliberately withhold your plans from me?

Mr. DOWNEY: (as Sherlock Holmes) You never complained about my methods before.

TURAN: This bickering is especially tiresome when joined to the film's attempt to become a typical studio picture by presenting overblown action sequences that just come off as generic. This Hollywoodized epic has attempted to do too much, and that's given the film an air of trying too hard, which is the one thing Sherlock Holmes should never have to do.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews films for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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