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Movie Night – 'Mr. Holmes' proves to be boring to watch (Nov. 25, 2015 issue)

In a movie about Sherlock Holmes you normally expect mystery, adventure, action and intrigue. If you expect any of those from “Mr. Holmes,” you will be greatly disappointed. “Mr. Holmes” is the story of an aging and inept Sherlock Holmes and is now available to rent at home.
The movie begins in 1947 as the retired Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellan) is living in obscurity in a remote farmhouse in England. Holmes is feeble of both mind and body. He is assisted by a live-in housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), and her young son Roger (Milo Parker).
Holmes has just returned from a trip to Japan where he was seeking prickly ash, a plant found only in Japan that is known to have medicinal properties that would help Holmes’ aging and forgetful mind. His entire journey to Japan is told only through flashbacks and dreams as the remainder of the story unfolds.
Before Holmes left for Japan he had been trying to recreate in writing his final case for posterity’s sake. It seems that many of the habits or tendencies that Dr. Watson attributed to Holmes in his stories were not accurate. Holmes never wore a deerstalker cap and smoked cigars rather than a pipe, for example.
In his last case, at least, Holmes wants an accurate record of the facts, his methods, and the conclusion of the matter. The only problem is that Holmes can’t remember the case with much clarity. Holmes is hoping that the restorative properties of the prickly ash will help him recall the case long enough to get it all down on paper and leave one final legacy of the world’s greatest detective.
Roger finds the manuscript and begs Holmes to complete the story. As the movie goes on Holmes remembers more and more of his final case and also becomes quite attached to Roger, even going so far as showing him how to care for the bees in his apiary.
If “Mr. Holmes” was described in one word, it could only be boring. The pace of the movie is very slow, glacial even. Very few events actually occur to the characters. One reviewer has described the movie as a crime drama. There is neither crime nor drama in the movie. The only bit of mystery in the movie is whether Holmes will remember his final case before he reaches the end of his days.
The bright spot of the movie is that Ian McKellan is great as the fictional detective in his 90s and in the flashbacks to his final case 35 years earlier. McKellan plays Holmes as decrepit and forgetful, unable sometimes to distinguish the present from the past. Yet, somehow McKellan brings a dignity to the role of a once-famous man living out his final years in self-imposed exile.
The movie is based upon a book titled “A Slight Trick of the Mind,” and I watched the movie with the belief that the movie would be more palatable than the same story in writing. This is one of those rare times that the movie is, only slightly, better than the book. The movie brings Holmes to life more than the dreadfully dreary book, which is not recommended.
“Mr. Holmes” is a movie about growing old and how time eventually catches up with us all. You’ll see Sherlock Holmes in a new light, for even he is not immune to the ravages of age. While Holmes has found a sort of peace in his final years in the English countryside, he cannot overcome a deteriorating body and mind. Holmes says it best himself in the movie, “I can’t solve everything.”
Grade: C+
Rated PG for thematic elements, some disturbing images, and incidental smoking.