On Christmas Day of 2018, Will Ferell and John C. Reilly teamed up for the third time (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers) onscreen to play Detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, who investigate a mysterious murder at Buckingham Palace. Holmes and Watson started off on a bad note when Deadline originally reported that Netflix passed on buying the comedy because the streaming service was dismayed by the low-test scores that the film received prior to release. Therefore, Holmes & Watson was stuck in theaters against Vice, Aquaman, and Mary Poppins Returns. The main issue is that the film couldn’t even match half the quality of any of the three movies. At one point, the film held the rare distinction of having 0% on rotten tomatoes; however, the score has managed to receive a 10% since that time. More importantly, the film failed to recoup its $42 million production budget, as Holmes & Watson only made $41 million worldwide. So, what happened? It’s clear that the level of quality helped with the failure of Holmes & Watson, bur Ferrell and Reilly have over 20 films that have made $100 million worldwide, thus Holmes & Watson should’ve produced better results than it originally did. Let’s examine further why the 2016 feature bombed at the box office.
The Bad Buzz Surrounding Holmes & Watson
The introduction paragraph made it clear that Holmes & Watson was just an incredibly bad movie; however, casual moviegoers don’t tend to listen to reviews. Adam Sandler is a prime example of this. The actor is very talented and when he’s attached to a great script, then Sandler soars and proves why his name should be in the upper echelon of actors in Hollywood. However, that’s drowned out due to the massive number of films that rate poorly in the Adam Sandler filmography. The former Saturday Night Live star has over 15 movies that have made more than $100 million worldwide, with each of those films receiving a rotten tomato. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly don’t particularly carry the same popularity as Sandler, but both men have respectable filmographies and their last two outings together were genuinely great films. But the trailer for Holmes & Watson told you everything that you needed to know; that Holmes & Watson are idiots and that’s what the film is mostly based around. The Sherlock Holmes material is generally a popular series as the entries with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have done great box office numbers. There’s a possibility of a great parody to be made from the intellectual property, but Watson & Holmes make several key mistakes.
One of the crucial mishaps is that there’s simply no respect for the Sherlock Holmes series. Holmes & Watson are treated as genius detectives, and there’s a way to play into their stereotypes without taking away the signatures traits of their characters. Instead, the duo are complete numskulls who happen to be say things from the 21st century, yet are dumbfounded that women are doctors. The filmmakers didn’t understand the source material of the Holmes and Watson characters so they threw everything at the wall to see what would stick. This entire shtick stuck out like a sore thumb in the trailer. It doesn’t get any better in the actual film. Parodies tend to be original films that add a new perspective on the genre they’re mocking. Hot Fuzz and Airplane are popular examples of this. Both films are clearly mocking the tropes of a specific genre, yet they stand on their own two feet as original films. The marketing and trailer are what killed most of the audience’s enthusiasm for the film, with the critical reception only putting the final nail in the coffin.
The 2018 Box Office Was Filled with Big Movie Titles
There was a point in time where the Holiday season was mostly reserved for Oscar hopefuls or Holiday themed features, but Avatar was truly the first blockbuster to break that tradition and Star Wars: The Force Awakens only re-enforced the notion that blockbusters don’t have to only come out during the summer. Aquaman, Mary Poppins Returns, Ralph Breaks The Internet, Bumblebee, and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse all occupied the movie landscape during this time. While there isn’t a film that specifically targets the same demographic, each of these movies cover them. Each of these movies have a comedic aspect and were well-established and reviewed films. Holmes & Watson was dead on arrival because it failed to standout in a crowded market. It’s not particularly surprising that Sony tried to dump this film onto Netflix. Considering that Netflix is no stranger to bad movies, it speaks volumes about Holmes & Watson when they opted to turn the film down.