Fri, 08 Jan 2010 13:09:16 GMT

Review: 'Sherlock Holmes'

Take it from a lifelong fan of Arthur Conan Doyle: Robert Downey Jr. is so NOT Sherlock Holmes.

Review: 'Sherlock Holmes'

That's not a hindrance -- in fact, it's a big help -- as he and director Guy Ritchie bring Conan Doyle's dusty Victorian-age detective into the modern world.

Enough of the trappings are left in their action romp 'Sherlock Holmes' -- the lightning-fast cerebrations, the encyclopedic knowledge of London, the compulsive single-mindedness, the vain one-upmanship -- to make Downey a reasonably faithful embodiment of the figure Conan Doyle created.

And of course, this is Downey, whose career resurgence rests on his ability to make the most unlikely role his own. He doesn't look like the classic Holmes, he plays the man as a scamp, and he's after laughs as much as lawbreakers.

But Downey does a great Brit, he lives large in the part, and he brings a human spark to cold, egghead Holmes that will help pack in huge audiences for a character on the fringes since the Basil Rathbone days.

Revisionists have done a number on Holmes before -- he was psychoanalyzed by Sigmund Freud in 'The Seven-Per-Cent Solution' and spoofed by Gene Wilder in 'The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother.'

So, why shouldn't Ritchie put his London-rogues-and-rascals spin on Holmes, and cast the detective into a brawn-over-brain action epic? After all, Conan Doyle's Holmes tales -- particularly the novel-length ones -- could be action rip-roarers.

The failing of Ritchie -- and a team of four writers who share story or screenwriting credit -- is the drab plot they built around Holmes, an uninspired tale of a secret society and potentially supernatural doings.

It's nonsense, a dumb Hollywood treatment that's beneath Holmes, but is made watchable, even exhilarating at times, by clever chases and scuffles, a superb recreation of old London in its splendor and squalor, and the amiable interplay of the actors.

Jude Law heads the supporting cast as Holmes' colleague, Watson, less a loyal sidekick in Ritchie's creation, than an odd-couple roomie in a bickering-buddy bromance.

Ravishing in every scene, Rachel McAdams was born to wear the sort of velvety, frilly Victorian garb she dons as Irene Adler, a cunning foil to Holmes, as well as, his romantic interest, the most-extreme revision by Ritchie and company.

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