As a fan of Sherlock Holmes and his widely varied screen versions, and as a learner of Russian who greatly enjoyed the straight Soviet adaptations of the Holmes stories that starred Vasily Livanov in the 1970s and 1980s, I was quite looking forward to watching this comedy once I found it. The conceit is that Sherlock Holmes is, as in reality, a fictional creation of Arthur Conan Doyle, but that the place where his office would be is maintained by the brilliant detective Shirley Holmes, who both solves crimes and maintains a museum for people who think Sherlock Holmes is real -- accompanied by a phonograph playing music from the Livanov series which had not long ended. She is accompanied, as might be expected, by a woman Watson, and must fight off the affections of both a Scotland Yard inspector an a parody Latin lover from Spain.
It's a fun joke. And the whole film, in fact, is full of fun jokes. We get dancing Scotland Yard policemen singing songs that essentially mock their own incongruity, and chief inspectors setting up offices in dank basements to hide out. The humor is often absurdist, but delivered with a straight face; it's almost reminiscent of Monty Python-style comedy, delivered with a deadpan quality that seems to suit its Victorian English setting. My favorite sequence came when the members of a gentlemen's club were told they would have to go through a "humiliating verification" to see which of them were really will -- which turned out to be a man asking each of them very seriously if they were gentlemen. There's some sexist humor present too, but that almost goes without saying, given the premise.
There's also an attempt to fit in a murder mystery, thought, and to make the love triangle between Holmes, the Latin lover, and the police inspector carry weight. And given the overt silliness of the humor these elements take up screen time without commanding attention. It makes the film seem to drag even when entertaining moments come fairly frequently. I wish the filmmakers, if they were going to commit to all-out silliness, had not felt as obligated to provide a standard-issue plot.
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