Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Without a Clue (1988)

As mentioned many times before, no doubt, I'm a massive Sherlock Holmes fan, and greatly enjoy seeking out movies about the character! Whether or not said films are any good though is another matter entirely! But enough about Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady. Especially interesting are the pastiches and comedies, that take an interesting approach with the source material, such as movies like The Seven-Percent Solution, They Might Be Giants, and the one I'm looking at today-Without a Clue...

In 19th Century England, the famed detective Sherlock Holmes is at large, solving mysteries and catching criminals wherever he goes, always with his sidekick Dr. Watson by his side. However, the roles are actually reversed. Watson is the true genius, and Holmes is a fictional character he stands behind, using out-of-work actor, drunkard, and gambler Reginald Kincaid to play the role and bring the illusion to life. Unfortunately, given 'Holmes'' temperament, and inability to understand or utilize Watson's deductive skills effectively, constantly on the verge of embarrassing himself, he's thrown out on the streets. However, Watson finds he has trouble getting anywhere without the great Sherlock Holmes, and everyone treats him as a mere nobody, making sleuthing next to impossible for the good Crime Doctor.

Meanwhile, some plates for the 5 Pound bill have been stolen, and realizing he's getting nowhere fast without 'Holmes', Watson decides reluctantly to bring him along for one last case. The plot thickens when Watson is seemingly killed, and the bumbling Holmes has to solve the rest of the mystery himself...

Without a Clue is a great Sherlock Holmes film, as well as a highly amusing buddy adventure! Due to synopsis' I'd read, I was actually under the impression that Watson is missing for much of the film, but that's not the case. The duo are together for most of the film, and it's the better for it, as they work off each-other really well, and it'd be annoying if one half of the team was gone for the majority of the runtime. The plot moves along at a slow pace for the first half, but is never sluggish, and there's always stuff happening in the movie. The mystery progresses really well! While the film is definitely a comedy, it never sacrifices the seriousness of its plot and gives into farce. The fact that the mystery itself is played totally straight is great!

Without a Clue's core concept is an inventive one, with so much potential for jokes and amusing moments, which the movie absolutely lives up too. It's clever, too, in how it also mirrors real-life, with Arthur Conan Doyle's own relationship with the character if Sherlock Holmes. Between that, and other elements, the writers clearly know their stuff.

The film looks great, too, never appearing unconvincing. Same goes for the score. It's a
rousing and upbeat soundtrack that complements the proceedings well. Finally, both the opening and closing credits utilize neat visuals, with what look like photographs with watercolour treatment done to them to look like period paintings.

The acting is all great! Ben Kingsley is an excellent straight man, while Michael Caine plays his role as both bumbling, as well as determined as the film goes on, handling the material perfectly. Probably the only weak-ish link in the film's casting is Paul Freeman as Moriarty. He's definitely fine in the role, but he doesn't appear quite enough. Thankfully what we do see is well-handled, and he exudes villainy, never feeling hampered by being in a lighthearted comedy. The rest of the cast is fine too, from Jeffrey Jones as Lestrade, Pat Keen as Mrs. Hudson, Lysette Anthony (of Krull! Not overdubbed this time either!), and of course, the indispensable Prince the Wonder Dog!...

One thing of note about Without a Clue is its positive portrayal of a seemingly transgender character! It's nothing major, since the character only comes into play in the last 20 to 30 minutes, and has just a few lines (though they're still an important player), but it's still a breath of fresh air. The movie never belittles or makes fun of them, and they're treated with respect by the characters, and the film itself. It's rare enough seeing a movie treat trans people with dignity NOW, let alone back in 1988!

Without a Clue is both a really enjoyable movie, and a great Sherlock Holmes story! I highly recommend it, whether you're a fan of the character, or just into mysteries and humour in general...

No comments:

Post a Comment