Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly have made two funny movies together: Talladega Nights and Step Brothers. They are re-teaming for Holmes & Watson, a comedy riff on Sherlock Holmes. The first trailer is terrible. I mean, it is so bad, it’s almost artful, how bad it is. That selfie joke? TERRIBLE. The “real doctor/heroin” joke is okay, the bit mocking the Guy Ritchie visualization of Sherlock’s thought process is kind of working, but the rest of it is so, so bad. Like I actively winced several times during this trailer. I watched it a few times just to make sure, and yep, it’s a lousy trailer.
And yet, I am not willing to write Holmes & Watson off for two reasons. One is that Will Ferrell movies usually involve a lot of improvisation/riffing, and there are HOURS of material from which to cut a movie. So these are not the only jokes, and hopefully there are better ones that make it into the movie. The other reason is the left-field appeal of the Ferrell-Reilly comedies. I remember being at a friends and family screening of Talladega Nights and being part of, at best, 25% of the audience laughing. The rest of the audience—the vast majority—was dead silent and many were obviously offended/displeased by it. And yet, Talladega Nights has gone on to be one of Ferrell’s most beloved, and heavily quoted, movies. Likewise, Step Brothers was a grower and not a shower, building a following over time.
So, as bad as this trailer is—and it is very, very bad—there is always a chance that Holmes & Watson ends up like the other Ferrell-Reilly movies. The appeal might be limited at first, but it could very well end up with a sizeable following. Comedy trailers are always a gamble because they shouldn’t be giving away the best jokes anyway, but with Will Ferrell movies they’re even more of a swing because you never really know how a Will Ferrell comedy will play. They have a tendency to grow on you over time and there is no way to judge if that will or will not be the case for a particular movie based on a trailer. And boy do I hope that’s the case for Holmes & Watson because really, this trailer is just the worst.