Worst of Netflix: Sherlock Holmes

Every week, I scour Netflix for a movie rated at one star and put it in my queue, suffering through it for your entertainment so that you don’t have to. In the past, I’ve taken on anime cancer demons, softcore Iraq War porn and racist ventriloquism, and this week, it’s a lost case of fiction’s greatest detective, as written by a fourteen year-old on meth.


Starring: The omnipresent sound of Arthur Conan Doyle spinning in his grave.

Last week, Guy Ritchie’s big-budget Sherlock Holmes hit DVD, but thanks to a deal with Warner Bros. that keeps Netflix from getting movies until 30 days after their release (and completely misses why Netflix is stomping a financial mudhole in video stores), I won’t be getting it for a while. Instead, I decided to kill 90 minutes with the knockoff of the same name by the studio that brought you Transmorphers, our old pals at the Asylum.

Believe it or not, this was actually the first Worst of Netflix selection that I was actually looking forward to watching, for the simple fact that it’s got SHERLOCK HOLMES FIGHTING A DINOSAUR on the cover. Call me a man of simple tastes, but that is literally all I need to hear to get excited about something, and that’s before you throw in the sea monster and the dragon that are also pictured on the cover. In short, I knew going in that it was going to be insane, but every once in a while, there’s a movie that’s so crazy it loops back around to awesome.

Of course, most movies tend to be so crazy that they’re just terrible, and given the Asylum’s track record, I wasn’t really expecting a smooth road.

Sherlock Holmes

The most obvious problem with the film is Holmes himself, as played by Ben Syder. Amazingly, it’s not that he’s a bad actor–hell, by Asylum standards he’s the bastard child of Laurence Olivier and Meryl Streep–but he looks about 16 and has a high voice that’s somewhere between Ash Ketchum and Little Richard. He’s essentially the diametric opposite of Jeremy Brett, and while the character’s open to interpretation, it’s pretty hard to take him even remotely seriously when you keep wondering why he’s not in school. Not that this is exactly a movie that asks you to take it seriously.

But surprisingly, he does a decent job with it, especially in the fact that he’s got chemistry with Watson. A lot of chemistry. So much chemistry, in fact, that I’m pretty sure the filmmakers heard there was some gay subtext in Ritchie’s version and decided to play it safe by making a movie where Holmes and Watson could not do a scene together without giving the impression of a long-suffering married couple. And yet, I actually think that puts it a cut above their usual flicks.

Another shocker: The production values are actually not bad, and not just because they capture the steampunk aesthetic by running the movie through a filter that makes everything look brown as all hell. The CGI is terrible special effects are still mostly pulled off by shaking the camera, but unlike the usual Asylum technique of filming in basements, abandoned factories and vacant lots, this one actually has sets and costumes. And while I would’ve been stunned if they’d hired actors who could fake a British accent for an hour and a half, they actually went the extra mile and got actors who were actually English. For those guys, it’s a remarkable achievement to make a movie that looks comparable to the more elaborate SyFy Channel Originals, and I’ve got to hand it to them: They pull it off.

Well, except that one scene where they forget to not point the camera at a road sign that doesn’t quite fit in with 1882.

Sherlock Holmes

But like I said earlier, the real selling point is the plot, and it stupid. Amazingly, unfathomably, awesomely stupid.

The fact that Holmes fights a dinosaur–which is actually a miniature Tyrannosaurus that is also a cyborg and is hinted at being the true identity of Jack the Ripper, and no I am not kidding–is only the tip of the iceberg in a plot that’s stitched together like an especially sloppy Frankenstein. It wanders all over the place, and–much like the 2008 election–involves illegal immigrants, dinosaurs and a woman of ill repute, but eventually it settles in on something absolutely fantastic.

Namely, that Sherlock Holmes’s evil brother, an ex-cop out for revenge who builds himself a sexy android and a Tin Man suit with a dirtbike helmet that’s so steampunk that I’m pretty sure it actually has a clock just straight-up glued to the back of it, is going to try to blow up the Queen while burning down London in his giant flying mechanical fire-breathing Dragon, which Holmes has to shoot down with a machinegun mounted on his helicopter balloon, finally taking him out by parachuting onto the lawn of Buckingham palace and shooting him like Murtaugh at the end of Lethal Weapon 2.

Sherlock Holmes

As a Holmes fan, I was a little miffed that they introduced a new character to be Holmes’s brother (credited as both “Thorpe” and “Spring-Heeled Jack,” despite being called neither of these in the actual film) rather than going with Mycroft, Holmes’s brother in the actual Conan Doyle stories, but then I realized that I was nitpicking a movie where Holmes used a machinegun mounted on his helibaloon to fight what is basically an NES level boss. Plus, they made up for it by having Thorpe constantly refer to Holmes as “Robert” in what I’m pretty sure is a direct swipe at Robert Downey Jr., who played Holmes in Ritchie’s version. They’re basically calling him out through the medium of low-budget knockoffs, and c’mon: That’s a ballsy move.

So is it good? Not exactly. But it is genuinely entertaining, and occasionally it even does it on purpose. It’s a damn hoot, and it’s the first Worst of Netflix movie that I’ve actually liked.

And I fully expect that this will never happen again.

1251216230_chris_sims.jpgChris Sims is a freelance comedy writer from South Carolina. He briefly attended USC before he dropped out to spend more time with Grand Theft Auto, and his career subsequently took the path that you might expect from someone who makes that sort of decision. He blogs at http://www.the-isb.com and creates comics at http://www.actionagecomics.com.

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