Picks and Pans Review: Without a Clue

updated 11/07/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/07/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

There's trouble afoot at 221B Baker Street. Dr. Watson, played by the redoubtable Ben Kingsley, has just thrown his friend Sherlock Holmes, the ever-charming Michael Caine, off the premises. Has Watson had it with being one-upped by the great crime detective? Not on your nelly. Gary Murphy and Larry Strawther, making their debut as screenwriters (they're story editors for TV's Night Court), have come up with a high-concept twist: Watson is really the genius of the duo; Holmes is a birdbrained, pub-crawling, skirt-chasing, hambone actor hired by Watson as a front. Now, after 10 years of standing in a fake's shadow, Watson yearns for applause. It's a one-joke picture, count it, with the joke stretched as thin as a noodle and just as limp. Watson finds that neither the public nor his publisher wants to hail him as the "Crime Doctor." They want Holmes. To save face, Watson must call back Holmes to play pretend on a counterfeiting case of cruel and unusual tedium. For nearly two hours Oscar winners Caine and Kingsley labor mightily to please. Fitfully, they do. But their reputations for effortless comedy are now blemished. Jeffrey (Beetlejuice) Jones as the bumbling Inspector Lestrade, Paul (Raiders of the Lost Ark) Freeman as the evil Professor Moriarty and Pat (Clockwise) Keen as the landlady, Mrs. Hudson, are also pushed to buffoonish extremes by director Thorn (Night of the Comet) Eberhardt, but the movie doesn't move. It's inert. The filmmakers include a final printed apology to the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It's the least they could do. (PG)

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