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Mr. Holmes **

It's cool to see Sherlock Holmes in a new setting, but this has too much going on.

Is it worth $10? No

This is not your father’s, Guy Ritchie’s, or even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. It is instead, according to its construct, the “real” Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective who never actually wore a deerstalker cap or smoked a pipe but did solve crimes with his sharp intellect and keen observations.

Clearly, “Mr. Holmes” is trying to be different. That’s a good thing. But you cannot be different and scattered, and that’s what director Bill Condon’s (“Dreamgirls”) film is. There are three storylines: In 1947 Holmes (Ian McKellen) is senile, living with his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker), and trying to remember the details of an unsolved case from 30 years earlier. Holmes, now 93, is haunted by the case and trying to write it down as a way of remembering; aspiring sleuth Roger takes an interest, and the two bond. They also, in an extended subplot that doesn’t sufficiently connect to the main action, care for bees in the front yard of their English country estate.



The second storyline takes place a week earlier in 1947 and follows Holmes in Japan with an old acquaintance (Hiroyuki Sanada) as they look for prickly ash, a supplement that is said to help arthritis and memory loss. Finally, yet another storyline is a flashback to when Holmes was working on the unsolved case, in which he tried to help a wealthy man’s (Patrick Kennedy) wife (Hattie Morahan) after a spell was allegedly placed on her by a music instructor (Frances de la Tour).

Sure all the storylines come together in the end, but a better script (and movie) would’ve excised Japan and focused solely on 30 years ago and the present. With this Condon could’ve more cleanly edited transitions between time periods, which would’ve allowed each plotline to independently progress, and as they do the stories in each could’ve complemented one another in a way that creates a stronger overall narrative. This also would’ve avoided the disjointedness that comes with the sequences in Japan, which offer little to the main story. Part of the reason for the clutter could be that Mitch Cullin, who wrote the book (“A Slight Trick of the Mind”) on which the film is based, is one of the screenwriters, and apparently neither he nor Condon grasped how cinematically unnecessary the Japan sequences would be.

Story issues aside, McKellen is strong in the title role, and kudos to the makeup department for aging him gracefully and believably. It no doubt helps that McKellen is 75, roughly half way in between his two desired ages in the film. His Holmes is flawed and humble, yet blessed with the powers of perception that make him a quick study in any room or situation. He’s a delight. The talented Laura Linney is wasted as an overbearing motherly nag, but Parker, as her son Roger, nicely holds his own opposite McKellen.

If only the performances alone were enough to make “Mr. Holmes” worth your money. Alas they are not, as the story is too flawed for you to give it any attention at all. And you don’t have to be a detective to figure that out.

Did you know?
McKellen took a course in beekeeping prior to production and was not stung during filming.

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Mr. Holmes

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