Wow, did this movie really come out that long ago? I've been thinking a bit about Sherlock Holmes lately, and over the weekend watched two of my favorite Holmes movies that I own on DVD. This is one of them. This movie is such a delight. It stars Michael Caine as Holmes and Ben Kingsley as Watson... only this story runs with the idea that Watson is really the detective. But because he was a doctor looking for a good position, he couldn't very well use his own name in all those stories he was publishing, so he created the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes. When the stories become a gigantic success, he is forced to hire an out-of-work, drunken actor, Reginald Kincaid (Michael Caine), to play Holmes for the public. When Watson attempts to dispose of the actor and announce to the public that he's the true detective, he finds that it's too late: Sherlock Holmes is the only one the public will accept. So he brings Holmes back for one more case, involving a counterfeit money scheme Moriarty (played by Paul Freeman) is attempting to pull off.
This movie could not have been more perfectly cast. Oscar-winners Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley make this movie. Caine is thoroughly wonderful as the amiable, but inept actor forced to memorize myriad clues and info every day in order to pull the role of Holmes. Kingsley is just as wonderful as the real brain, with little patience for the antics of the actor he's hired. Of course, they end up helping each other, and, of course, Michael Caine will have to step up to the plate and attempt some real sleuthing... with hilarious and satisfying results. I can't imagine anyone playing this version of Holmes better than Michael Caine.
It's well-known I'm not so big on comedy, but this one plays just right for me. The natural humor comes from the situations the characters get into and their personalities, which always works better. The dialogue is smart and funny and doesn't get old, no matter how many times I see this movie. There's some physical humor too, but it's not overdone. It's quite an old-fashioned film, really, and I love it.