Director Guy Ritchie reunites Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law in the even more bromantic sequel to 2009's Sherlock Holmes. Holmes (Downey) is up to his usual nonsense on the eve of Watson's (Law) wedding, disguising himself as a bookcase in the jungle he's created in his office (much to the exasperation of his housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson). This time, Holmes is after the evil mathematical genius Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who is intent on amassing a fortune from munitions sales by initiating a world war.
Joined by gypsy fortune teller (the original Girl with the Dragon Tatto, Noomi Rapace) who is a reformed anarchist, Holmes and Watson journey to France, Germany and Switzerland in search of their prey. Holmes' brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) is also on hand (and occasionally naked). Rachel McAdams makes a brief return appearance as Holmes' love interest, joined by Kelly Reilly; Gerladine James and Eddie Marsan who also reprise their roles from the 2009 film, brief as those reprisals may be (though Reilly gets a bit more screen time this time around).
D and I really enjoyed the first movie, which was funny, smart and had a hint of supernatural elements in its plot. And while we, for the most part, enjoyed A Game of Shadows, we couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed by it. Holmes is almost completely out of control here; swilling formaldehyde, dressing in more and more outrageous disguises and behaving like a kid with ADD who hasn't taken his Ritalin. His behavior is in fact so outrageous, one must wonder why Watson puts up with it all. It must be true love, especially after he continues on with Holmes after Holmes throws Watson's new wife off a moving train into the river below (don't worry - she's rescued by Mycroft).
Ritchie relies even more on the 'slow-mo/stop-mo/reverse-mo/full speed-mo' camera work he used in the first film and after the third time, I wanted to say "Enough, already!" The overly-complicated plot (courtesy of screenwriters Michelle and Kieran Mulroney) would have been a complete bore, if it wasn't broken up by several exciting and generally well-executed action sequences.
Downey and Law are fine, though neither brings anything new to the table. Rapace struggles against the stereotypical Victorian gypsy fortune-teller character, but the role is so poorly written, she can't help but fall back on those old tropes. Fry is wonderfully acerbic as Mycroft, but no more so than in anything else he's ever done (though I do applaud him for displaying his very far-from-perfect body for all to see). Harris (well-known for playing villainous types) is appropriately creepy as Moriarty, but once again, brings nothing new to the table.
In the end, D and I both expected more from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. At nearly two and a half hours, it could have benefited by being about 20 minutes shorter; employing a less heavy-handed editing approach; a less complicated plot and better character development. Should there be a Sherlock Holmes 3 (as the movie's end suggests), we'll probably go see it. But with much lowered expectations. ** (2 out of Four Stars)