Australian Council on Children and the Media

Holmes & Watson

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Not recommended under 13 (strong sexual references, drug use, coarse language, lack of interest)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Holmes & Watson
  • a review of Holmes & Watson completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 31 December 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to strong crude humour, coarse language, and lack of interest.
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Holmes & Watson
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Crude humour and coarse language.
Length 90 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Holmes & Watson is a comic spoof on the infamous stories of Sherlock Homes and his sidekick Watson. After foiling another plot by his archnemesis, Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes), detective Sherlock Holmes (Will Ferrell) and his wannabe co-detective, Dr John Watson (John C. Reilly), investigate a murder and plot to kill the Queen (Pam Ferris).  Whilst battling distractions from their sex-addicted housekeeper Mrs Hudson (Kelly Macdonald), and budding love from the beautiful and intelligent Dr Grace Hart (Rebecca Hall) and her odd companion Millie (Lauren Lapkus), it becomes clear to Holmes and Watson that the mystery may be more complicated than they originally thought. 

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death; misogyny; crime; drug and alcohol dependence; love.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Frequent slapstick violence with few to no consequences. For example, slapping, hitting people with bats, etc.
  • Holmes poisons Watson, who begins to froth at the mouth – this is comedic.
  • A group of vagrant women in the background of a scene are beating and robbing a man.
  • Many characters are stabbed and die however no blood is shown.
  • Children are forced to box each other, while adults bet on the winner.
  • Characters are punched and beaten with objects.
  • Queen Victoria is hit over the head and presumed dead. She is roughly beaten around and stuffed into a chest, before waking up with no adverse consequences from the beatings.
  • A bomb explodes in a boat of people who are then presumed dead.
  • Characters are threatened with guns.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Killer bees are released and attack Holmes and Watson. This is more comical than frightening but may distress very young children.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • A dead body falls out of a cake after the person hiding inside (to jump out and surprise) is accidentally stabbed with knives and an axe through the icing. No wounds or blood are visible.
  • Holmes becomes violently ill after seeing a dead body. He vomits repeatedly and intensely. This may distress young children.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Watson threatens to kill himself by jumping off a building.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing of concern for this age group.

Product placement

  • Nothing of concern.

Sexual references

There are frequent sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Holmes lewdly simulates riding and slapping a giant zucchini.
  • Strong and frequent use of mimed and suggested masturbation by both men and women. This includes heavy use of innuendo.
  • Watson remarks that Hudson leaves his bedroom smelling like “fish pie and semen” after she uses it to sleep with men.
  • References to prostitutes and pornography.
  • Frequent references to being aroused.
  • While intoxicated, Holmes encourages Watson to send a lewd telegram to Dr Hart. Watson is implied to have exposed his penis (not shown) in order to send a picture of it to Dr Hart.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Hudson is implied to have had sex with multiple men throughout the film. For example, she is seen exiting a bedroom in a state of disarray, followed by a man or several men.
  • Watson and Dr Hart sensually rub cake off the naked body of a deceased man, upon which they plan to perform an autopsy. No genitalia are visible but there is, for example, sensual rubbing of nipples.
  • Watson and Dr Hart play strip chess together. No breasts or genitalia are visible.
  • Male and female characters kiss passionately.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Reference to cocaine, opioid, heroin, and cannabis use.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption in a pub setting – spirits, wine, beer.
  • Tobacco smoking – cigarettes and pipes.

Coarse language

There is frequent coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Fuck
  • Bitch
  • Bastard
  • Whore
  • Shit (horseshit, bullshit, etc.)
  • Wanker
  • Damn
  • “Face like a pig’s anus”.

In a nutshell

Holmes & Watson is a lazy parody of the Sherlock Holmes detective mysteries. It very much misses the mark due to its outdated, crude, and often tasteless humour.  While only rated M, this film is inappropriate for children under 13, due to the strongly sexual humour, violent slapstick, and strong use of substances.  Parental guidance may be warranted for those under 15.  Unlike other Ferrell and Reilly comedies, this film is unlikely to entertain older children or adults.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Friendship.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Suicide and encouraging suicidal behaviours. For example, as Watson attempts to jump off a building at the beginning of the film, Holmes provides him with alternative means of killing himself. This is presented in an amusing way, with Watson’s attempt resulting in no injury to himself.
  • Misogynistic attitudes towards women. Whilst tongue in cheek, there are numerous disparaging and objectifying comments and sequences relating to women. For example, the use of a ‘ring girl’ (a scantily clad woman who introduces a boxing match); jokes about female doctors; references to female ‘hysteria’, etc.
  • Public urination.

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