Holmes and Watson

Holmes and Watson is the next big Will Ferrell flick and most likely this holiday’s season’s biggest draw for Hollywood comedy. Aurally, the trailer hones in on a gradual and playful erosion of the fourth wall, as the ruse that Ferrell and co. put on as Victorian-era law-abiders, while never convincing, eventually drops all pretence – both figuratively and literally.

The first scene introduces Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as Doyle’s famous sleuthing pair Holmes and Watson, respectively; it doesn’t take long for Reilly to open his mouth and reveal his bumbling appraisal of Queen Victoria, whom they are both meeting. At 0:26 in the classical music is completely remixed in a contemporary hip-hop style as we are introduced more fully to Ferrell’s new persona and his slapstick humour. Then, the main problem core to the plot is set up at 1:06; notice how the ticking clocks perfectly timed with an intermittently blacked out screen, elevating the drama to a purposefully hyperbolic degree.

Finally, the ruse is completely broken once Thin Lizzy’s iconic rock song “The Boys Are Back in Town” is busted out at 1:16, the midway point of the trailer and where the date (this Christmas) card is dropped. Interestingly, the scene immediately preceding the drop of the Thin Lizzy track is itself a subtle but clear breaking of the fourth wall, as Ferrell acknowledges a girl’s dramatic irony in saying “no shit, Sherlock” – an anachronistic allusion to a popular saying of the past thirty years or so, having popularly originated as a line in 1986’s Little Shop of Horrors

1:30 serves as a synch point between the music and Ferrell’s gun shots following a scene of dialogue in keeping with most modern comedic trailers. Hammers and various projectiles, right up to a full-on body crashing out of an upper-storey window, are enhanced by the music’s punctuative rhythm. The stylistic counterpoint between the 70s classic rock soundtrack and the fin-de-siecle stylings of the film itself firmly reinforce the ridiculousness of the entire thing – and the era Arthur Conan Doyle found himself part of has always been perennially ripe for ridicule as it is, with the British accent of Queen Victoria herself overlaid atop the Thin Lizzy’s bombastic duelling guitar solos like a gold-encrusted doily paired with a dive bar’s ash tray.

Also of note is that Mark Mothersbaugh is on tap for music in the film; while unconfirmed, it wouldn’t be surprising if the first part of the trailer’s music were his, sounding like a mix of baroque pop spun with various contemporary tropes, much like he did for the Wes Anderson-directed The Royal Tenenbaums (and, coincidentally, Mothersbaugh is reportedly currently working with Anderson for a future film). 

Will Ferrell comedies have always been about shock and bombast to comedic ends, not unlike (slightly) more family friendly edition of Seth Rogen’s brand of humour that thumb noses any and all that’s drawn attention to. By providing such contrast between the two halves of this trailer musically, it leans in on its bipartite structure and the capacity of Thin Lizzy to provide comedic contrast while also pinpointing the spirit of the film as a buddy comedy.

– Curtis Perry