Archive for the ‘Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Category

Don’t step in pig slop, and don’t snort my cocaine. Not yours

August 9, 2007

Every now and then, I take a break from New movies and delve into my ever-expanding Netflix queue to check out an older film. Sometimes it’s a certifiable classic that I’ve managed to miss; other times, it’s a fairly new movie that seems appealing; other, other times it’s a hidden gem that I’ve heard much ado about.

The other day, a couple movies showed up in my mailbox – Babe: Pig in the City and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The former is a sequel to the 1995 surprise hit, and the latter was the second pairing of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as the London sleuth and his portly, comic-relief friend.

Babe isn’t a bad movie, but it has very little of the charm that the first one had. Which is odd, because the director (George Miller) was the producer the first time around, so it’s not like he was bringing a wholly new approach to the story. Oh, and the story? Well, Farmer Hogget (James Cromwell) is seriously injured on the farm (with the help of Babe, yay Babe), and the nefarious, well-dressed men from the bank are going to foreclose on the farm, so it’s up to Mrs. Hogget to travel to the Big City with Babe to capitalize on their sheep-pig’s newfound fame. Only stuff happens, as any traveler can confirm – to start things off, Babe’s impounded by the luggage guys when a dog, showing off his olfactory moxie, barks his fool head off. Then officials force Mrs. Hogget to be strip searched, and then they’ve missed their shuttle, and finally they wind up at a hotel for people with pets. At the hotel, Babe meets orangutans and chimps from a travelling show (run by Mickey Rooney, who barely speaks in the movie), plus dogs and cats and those ubiquitous singing mice from the original movie. The calamaties never stop, of course, leading to one contrived happenstance after another, culminating in a frenetic, acrobatic pig chase at a haughty charity ball.

I suppose that if you decided that none of the story had to make any sense at all, if you viewed it as purely absurdist theater, you might be somewhat satisfied with the results. But although I thought Babe was cute and endearing in the first movie, here the character is a little less charming and seems no different than any other underdog character in the history of movies.

I will say this, though – the set designs were pretty nifty; it reminded me of the 1990 Dick Tracy film. Nothing’s too dirty or unusual. There’s a hint of a criminal element, but even that comes off as surreal. When Mrs. Hogget and Babe arrive in the city, we get a panoramic view of its skyline, which includes the Hollywood sign, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Rio de Janeiro statue of Christ, the World Trade Center, and the Empire State Buiding, among others. So The City is basically an amalgam of many big cities, which makes some sense, since Babe and Mrs. Hogget probably have never been to one, and this makes it easier to show the vast chasm of difference between city life and farm life.

Other than that, though, the movie just wasn’t much fun. Cromwell shows up for a few minutes at the beginning and at the end, which is a shame, because he’s an excellent actor. I guess the writers felt some contrivance was needed to get a Hogget to the Big City, and who would care if Mrs. Hogget was the one who couldn’t make it?

Of course, if you’re watching this hoping for a strong, unpredictable ending, you have to know you’ll be disappointed. I mean, really, do you think Babe won’t save the farm? Bah ram ewe, indeed.

**

And then we have Sherlock Holmes. Rathbone and Bruce teamed up for the second time, following Hound of the Baskervilles, released the same year. This time, Holmes is asked by a young woman (the wonderful Ida Lupino) to watch over her, because she fears the imminent demise of her brother after receiving a malicious note. Meanwhile, Holmes has also agreed to help guarantee the safe passage of a precious stone arriving from India, to be stored with the crown jewels. And behind every move, it seems, is the diabolical Professor Moriarty (George Zucco), who’s out to break Holmes and then retire from a life of crime.

Somehow, all of these storylines are related, although it takes Holmes quite a while to deduce this. Could there be misdirection involved? Oh, perhaps. And just maybe Holmes will figure it all out but not tell anyone how he’s come to those conclusions until after the bad guys have been rounded up, like glibly mention it to Watson while puffing his crack pipe and plinking his violin. I think that if Holmes were played here by a lesser actor than Rathbone, one might not be able to stifle the urge to slap the smugness right off his face. I also found it interesting that the only way to come up with a good villain was to make the villain even more pompous and irritating. By contrast to Moriarty, Holmes is Pollyanna.

It’s an entertaining movie, still, mostly because of the great chemistry between Rathbone and Bruce; Lupino proves she’s more than a gun-moll kinda actress; Bruce himself is perfectly cast as the comic relief, which is sorely necessary in this film. Not quite a classic most remember, but a lot of fun anyway.

***

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