Holmes & Watson

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Holmes & Watson
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEtan Cohen
Written byEtan Cohen
Based on
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Wood
Edited byDean Zimmerman
Music byMark Mothersbaugh
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • December 25, 2018 (2018-12-25) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes[1]
CountriesUnited States
Budget$42 million[2]
Box office$41.9 million[2]

Holmes & Watson is a 2018 mystery comedy film written and directed by Etan Cohen. The film stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as the eponymous characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively; with Rebecca Hall, Rob Brydon, Kelly Macdonald, Steve Coogan and Ralph Fiennes in supporting roles. The plot follows the famed detective duo as they set out to find the culprit behind a threat at Buckingham Palace.

First announced in 2008 with Sacha Baron Cohen as Holmes and Ferrell as Watson, Holmes & Watson languished in development hell for several years before Ferrell and Reilly were confirmed for their eventual roles in July 2016, and Etan Cohen was announced as director. Filming took place around London from late 2016 to early 2017. It is the third collaboration between Ferrell and Reilly after Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), and Step Brothers (2008), and the first not to be directed by Adam McKay (who instead co-produced this film with Ferrell, Jimmy Miller and Clayton Townsend).

Holmes & Watson was released in the United States on December 25, 2018, by Sony Pictures Releasing, through its Columbia Pictures label. The film underperformed at the box office, grossing $41.9 million worldwide on a $42 million budget and was panned by critics, who lamented its poor script, dated and unfunny jokes and its squandering of the cast and source material. Some critics labelled it the worst film of 2018.[3] The press reported numerous instances of people walking out early during screenings.[4][5] The film received six nominations at the 39th Golden Raspberry Awards, and won four, including Worst Picture.[6]


Sherlock Holmes is viewed as a legendary detective. Both he and his partner, Dr. John Watson, are to view the trial of Professor James Moriarty, but are attacked by a swarm of bees, temporarily waylaid by a package sent by Moriarty and brought to them by their housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson. At the trial, Holmes reveals the man accused of Moriarty's crimes is an imposter named Jacob Musgrave, who is incapable of committing the murders due to tremors in his hand caused by excessive masturbation. Despite attempts by Inspector Lestrade to convince Holmes that his deduction is incorrect, Holmes is convinced that Moriarty is currently traveling to the United States while letting Musgrave take the fall for his crimes.

After the trial, the duo travel to Buckingham Palace to attend a surprise birthday party for Holmes, where they discover a corpse inside of a birthday cake along with a message from Moriarty, stating that Queen Victoria will die in 4 days' time. During the autopsy, Holmes and Watson meet Dr. Grace Hart and the feral Millie. Watson and Holmes become enamored with Grace and Millie, respectively. By the end of the autopsy, Watson declares that the corpse's cause of death is indeterminable, while Holmes believes that the person was poisoned. Furthermore, he believes that the poison came from Gustav Klinger. The pair eventually locate Klinger, who is indeed in league with Moriarty. Before Klinger can reveal anything, he is murdered.

Holmes decides that he must seek help from his brother Mycroft, who tells him that the murderer is someone close to him. Holmes mistakenly believes Watson to be the murderer and has him arrested. He comes to regret this decision, causing his emotions to return. Holmes goes to Watson's cell, only to find it empty save for a plate filled with red velvet cake crumbs. Deducing that his housekeeper made the cake and that Watson left the crumbs to send him a message, he tracks Watson and Mrs. Hudson, who is revealed to be Moriarty's daughter, to the Titanic, where the murder of the Queen is to take place. After apologizing to and freeing Watson, they rush to the main room where they discover a bomb, which Watson throws out of a window. The bomb lands in Mrs. Hudson's boat, killing her and her accomplices.

The pair are congratulated by the Queen, only for Holmes to defer the credit to Watson. The pair reconnect with Grace and Millie, the latter of whom reveals that her feral personality was an act to manipulate men. Each pair shares a kiss before Grace and Millie head out on the Titanic. After returning home, Holmes proudly displays a plaque on their building showing that Watson is a co-detective, finally giving him the recognition he desires (though it is still smaller than Holmes' own plaque). Later, Holmes and Watson confront Moriarty in a bar in the United States.



Hampton Court Palace, where portions of the movie were shot

In July 2008, it was reported that Sacha Baron Cohen would play Holmes and Will Ferrell would play Dr. Watson in a comedic take on Sherlock Holmes, to be produced by Judd Apatow with a script written by Etan Cohen, for Columbia Pictures.[7]

On August 17, 2016, it was reported that Ferrell and John C. Reilly would star in the film, titled Holmes & Watson, and written and directed by Etan Cohen, with Ferrell playing Holmes and Reilly playing Watson.[8] On November 14, 2016, Lauren Lapkus was cast to play Millie, with whom Sherlock is obsessed.[9] On November 17, 2016, Rob Brydon, Kelly Macdonald, and Rebecca Hall were added to the cast.[10] On January 6, 2017, Ralph Fiennes and Hugh Laurie also joined the cast.[11] Filming began in early December 2016 in London at Shepperton Studios. In early February 2017, film crews were on location at Hampton Court Palace.[12] A new song was written for the film by Alan Menken and his lyric-writer Glenn Slater, while the original score was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh.[13]


Holmes & Watson originally was scheduled to be released on August 3, 2018,[14] but in August 2017 it was pushed to November 9, 2018.[15] It was pushed to December 21, 2018, and then finally to December 25, 2018.[16] According to Deadline Hollywood, test scores for the film were so low that Sony, foreseeing a poor box-office reception, unsuccessfully attempted to sell its distribution rights to Netflix.[17]

Box office[edit]

Holmes & Watson grossed $30.6 million in the United States and Canada and $11.4 million in other territories for a total worldwide gross of $41.9 million against a production budget of $42 million.[2]

In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Vice and was projected to gross around $19 million over its first six days.[18] It made $6.4 million on its first day and $3.5 million on its second.[19] It went on to make $7.3 million in its first weekend for a six-day total of $19.7 million, finishing seventh.[17] Publications reported numerous social media reports of audiences walking out of screenings early[4][5] and The Verge argued that the film's critical and commercial failure illustrates a shift within the film industry away from broad comedy films with A-list stars.[20] In its second weekend, the film dropped 54% to $3.4 million, finishing 10th.[21]


Critical response[edit]

Holmes & Watson was not screened in advance for critics, who subsequently panned the film.[22] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 10% based on 81 reviews, with an average of 3.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson than does Holmes and Watson."[23] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 24 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[24] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D+" on an A+ to F scale, and those at PostTrak gave it one out of five stars and a 30% "definite recommend".[17]

Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a Christmas turkey" and wrote, "The overall shoddiness is typical of this feeble sendup that doesn't even manage to be as funny as the recent Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. versions."[25] Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times found the film dull, writing: "More laughs are all that would have been necessary to prevent the stagnation of Holmes & Watson. As the movie stands, smuggling in booze to dispel the sense of dull routine could only help."[26] Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club called it "a failure on almost every level," further saying, "it's pervaded by an air of extreme laziness. It's cheap and tacky—a bizarrely dated parody of Ritchie's Holmes (complete with a soundalike score) poisoned with rib-elbowing topical references and puerile gags. It's the Sherlock Holmes movie with the red 'Make England Great Again' hat and the lactating Watson."[27] Writing for Rolling Stone, David Fear called the film "so painfully unfunny we're not sure it can legally be called a comedy," and gave it 0.5/5 stars.[28] Tony Libera, writing for City Pages, described the film as "not only bad, but one of the worst and unfunniest movies of 2018." He wrote that "Holmes & Watson is on another level of awful."[29]

Graeme Tuckett of Stuff.co.nz gave the film two stars, stating that while it "has a handful of moments of genuine comic lunacy... all they really do is highlight the laziness and lack of laughs in the rest of the film."[30] IndieWire reviewer David Ehrlich criticized the script and inability of the film to decide "what kind of dumb it wants to be", giving it a grade of C− and saying that it contained fewer laughs "than the deleted scenes of Step Brothers."[31] David Edelstein of Vulture.com wrote "Holmes & Watson begins as ineptly as any comedy I've seen, and then settles into an agreeably silly groove that had the common hordes around me yukking it up."[32] Jake Wilson of The Sydney Morning Herald was more positive, writing, "Holmes and Watson is not for everybody, but if you want to see Ferrell off the leash, this is the best opportunity in a long time."[33]

Steve Coogan playfully mocked the film in October 2019 during a BAFTA Britannia Award ceremony. Standing on stage with John C. Reilly, the actor gave a speech where he advised not to laugh while having an upset stomach, saying: "So best to avoid laughing. If you want to do that, I can recommend a film that John and I did called Holmes & Watson. You should be pretty safe with that."[34]


Award Ceremony date Categories Recipients Result Ref.
Golden Raspberry Awards February 23, 2019 Worst Picture Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jimmy Miller, and Clayton Townsend Won [6]
Worst Director Etan Cohen Won
Worst Actor Will Ferrell Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor John C. Reilly Won
Worst Screen Combo Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly Nominated
Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel Holmes & Watson Won


  1. ^ "HOLMES AND WATSON (12A)". Columbia Pictures Corporation. British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Holmes & Watson (2018)". The Numbers. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  3. ^ O'Connell, Sean (December 26, 2018). "Holmes And Watson Reviews Are In, Here's What The Critics Think". CinemaBlend. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Stolworthy, Jacob (December 28, 2018). "Holmes & Watson: Will Ferrell and John C Reilly comedy is prompting cinema walkouts". The Independent. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Mehmedova, Filiz (December 27, 2018). "Holmes and Watson faces walkouts and harsh reviews from festive cinemagoers". Digital Spy. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Warner, Sam (23 February 2019). "Fifty Shades Freed and Holmes & Watson win big at Razzie Awards 2019 – here's the complete list of 'winners'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  7. ^ Stephenson, Hunter (July 2, 2008). "Sacha Baron Cohen, Will Ferrell to Star in Judd Apatow's Sherlock Holmes". /Film. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (August 16, 2016). "Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly Reunite For 'Holmes & Watson'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  9. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (November 14, 2016). "Lauren Lapkus Joins Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly Comedy 'Holmes & Watson'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  10. ^ Kroll, Justin (November 17, 2016). "Rob Brydon, Kelly Macdonald and Rebecca Hall Join 'Holmes and Watson'". Variety. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  11. ^ McNary, Dave (January 6, 2017). "Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Laurie Join Will Ferrell's 'Holmes and Watson'". Variety.
  12. ^ "Holmes and Watson: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly new film being set up at Hampton Court". Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  13. ^ Mancuso, Vinnie (December 24, 2018). "Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly on 'Holmes & Watson', Man-Love, & the Movie's Musical Number". Collider.
  14. ^ "Holmes and Watson Gets Summer 2018 Release". Comingsoon.net. February 7, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  15. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 11, 2017). "Sony Dates 'Silver and Black' & 'Sicario 2', Moves 'Holmes And Watson'; 'Bad Boys 3' Unset & More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 12, 2017.
  16. ^ Ames, Jeff (October 9, 2018). "Sony Shifts Release Dates for Holmes & Watson and More". Comingsoon.net. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 2, 2019). "'Aquaman' Charges Into 2019: DC Pic Will Hit $300M Domestic Around MLK With Potential $1B Final Worldwide". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  18. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 27, 2018). "'Aquaman' $16.9M Wednesday Bests 'Last Jedi' & 'Black Panther'; DC Superhero Will Fly To $54M Second Weekend". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  19. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 26, 2018). "'Aquaman' Unwraps $22M+ On Christmas For $105M+ Cume; 'Holmes & Watson' Opens To $6M+; 'Vice' $4M+". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  20. ^ Hassenger, Jesse (December 28, 2018). "Holmes & Watson's failure shows how the world is changing for cinematic comedy". The Verge. Retrieved December 29, 2018.
  21. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 6, 2018). "'Aquaman' Still The Big Man At The B.O. With $30M+; 'Escape Room' Packs In $17M+ – Early Sunday Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  22. ^ Galuppo, Mia (December 26, 2018). "'Holmes & Watson' Currently Sits at Rare Zero Percent Rotten Tomatoes Score". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  23. ^ "Holmes & Watson (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved November 9, 2023.
  24. ^ "Holmes & Watson Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  25. ^ Scheck, Frank (December 25, 2018). "'Holmes & Watson': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  26. ^ Kenigsberg, Ben (December 25, 2018). "'Holmes & Watson' Review: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and the Dull Routine of Bromance". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  27. ^ Vishnevetsky, Ignatiy (December 25, 2018). "Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly hit career lows in the abysmally unfunny Holmes & Watson". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  28. ^ Fear, David (December 26, 2018). "'Holmes & Watson' Review: No, Sh-t Sherlock". Rolling Stone.
  29. ^ Libera, Tony (January 2, 2019). "Review: 'Holmes & Watson' is on another level of awful". City Pages. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  30. ^ Tuckett, Graeme (December 20, 2018). "Holmes and Watson: Will Ferrell, John C Reilly disappoint in lame Sherlock parody". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  31. ^ Ehrlich, David (December 25, 2018). "Holmes & Watson' Review: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly Fail to Solve an Unfunny Script". IndieWire. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  32. ^ Edelstein, David (December 26, 2018). "Holmes & Watson Doesn't Make It Easy, But There's Fun to Be Had". Vulture.com. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  33. ^ Wilson, Jake (December 27, 2018). "Ferrell off leash in hilarious skewering of Sherlock nerd fantasy". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  34. ^ "Steve Coogan's Hilarious Acceptance Speech 2019 British Academy Britannia Awards". BAFTA. October 28, 2019. Retrieved November 29, 2019 – via YouTube.

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