- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary creations Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been entertaining countless millions for over a century not only in printed media but also in theatrical presentations, movies, radio, and television. Over the years, many different variations on the canonical arrangement of deductive detective and chronicler/friend have been attempted, some more successful than others. Thom Eberhardt’s Without a Clue has a terrific variant in the central relationship and might have resulted in a slam-bang comedy-drama, but inspiration comes up short after a good start, and the movie falls back on trite slapstick too often to the detriment of its overall effect. It’s a noble attempt at something different, but it just misses making it work.
Distributed By: Olive
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Run Time: 1 Hr. 47 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 03/31/2015
Successful author Dr. John Watson (Ben Kingsley) wrote a tremendously successful detective story featuring a fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, a creation so successful that a curious public demanded to meet this legendary detective, so Watson hires out-of-work actor Reginald Kinkaid (Michael Caine) to portray Holmes, and for nine years the duo make history with Watson doing all of the detecting and prompting his actor friend on the lines and movements to sell the notion that he is the great detective. But nine years have taken its toll on Watson fed up with Reggie’s drinking, gambling, and womanizing, so he fires him, hoping instead to institute a new identity for himself – Dr. John H. Watson: Crime Doctor. But no one takes him seriously, and when a new case involving counterfeit £5 notes falls into his lap, he must reluctantly rehire the man he hoped to be rid of to tackle their most baffling case.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The original concept for a Watson as detective with Holmes played by an actor who hasn’t a clue about detective work is by Gary Murphy and Larry Strawther, and it’s such an inspired idea. In fact, the film’s first quarter hour is delightful as Kinkaid’s Holmes manages to convince the public and the equally befuddled Inspector Lestrade (Jeffrey Jones) of his genius as an investigator. But then the movie really has nowhere else to go as Holmes’ continual stumbling and bumbling get irritatingly worse and worse (a back flip over a second floor hotel railing, being a tasty morsel for an especially hungry dog, clumsiness with pistols and other props), and the public (except for the very few – Mrs. Hudson (Pat Keen), Baker Street Irregular Wiggins (Matthew Savage), and the evil Professor Moriarty (Paul Freeman) – in on the charade) is made to look as clueless as Holmes not being able to figure out his incompetence. The case of the counterfeit money plates isn’t especially as complex or perplexing as we’d like in a Sherlock Holmes mystery, even if it is a faux Holmes. The screenwriters have tried to inject an element of surprise with one of the characters not being who he or she appears, but it’s rather limp, and the ironic payoff late in the film is likewise not particularly inspired. Director Thom Eberhardt does coax some attractive period detail out of his backlot streets and sets, and the use of wipes to segue between scenes is a nice antique touch, too, but the climax as a fencing Holmes and a returned-from-the-dead Watson manage to foil the villains goes on too long losing comic and dramatic momentum, and everyone near the end appears to be brain dead including the until-that-moment adept Mrs. Hudson.
Oscar-winners Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley perform very well together with Kingsley actually the more appealing of the pair as he copes with the trials of an unprofessional colleague while Caine gets into the spirit of the farce doing a series of slapstick turns as the inept Holmes. Jeffrey Jones, who at this time seemed to be in every other movie being released, is a mediocre Inspector Lestrade while Paul Freeman plays a cookie-cutter evil Professor Moriarty without any shadings or subtleties. Lysette Anthony is Leslie Giles, the damsel in distress whose father, the designer of the Bank of England plates played by John Warner, has been kidnapped by Moriarty and his gang. Nigel Davenport overacts like crazy as Lord Smithwick, the British treasurer, while Matthew Savage as street urchin Wiggins is an appealing tyke as Holmes’ trusty underground agent (who also is not above lifting a few watches and wallets). Until the badly directed denouement in an abandoned theater, Pat Keen makes for a fine Mrs. Hudson.
The transfer is framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (the liner notes err by stating it’s 1.66:1) and appears in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. It’s a very appealing transfer with very good sharpness apart from long shots which often appear too soft. Color is nicely controlled with realistic flesh tones which run the gamut from Smithwick’s deeply reddish complexion to Leslie’s peaches and cream look. Black levels vary a bit from good to quite excellent, and there is an occasional bit of dust but nothing that is in any way problematic. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix is very effective for the most part with dialogue occasionally going from the center channel to one of the opposing front speakers. Sometimes, however, the dialogue gets a bit overshadowed by Henry Mancini’s jaunty and delightful background score and the sound effects which get a nice spread across the front soundstage. No age-related problems with hiss or crackle appear at all.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Theatrical Trailer (2:14, HD)
Special Features Rating: 1/5
Without a Clue could have been a rousing comic adventure with tighter scripting and better direction. An inspired comic reversal of the Holmes and Watson dynamic simply wasn’t followed through as effectively as it might have been resulting in an irregular movie with quite erratic highs and lows. Still, the Blu-ray rendition of the film is much better than one might have expected.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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