Thursday, January 14, 2010

Two and a half snouts for Sherlock Holmes

(:)(:)(: for Sherlock Holmes in theaters everywhere. The first hour of this movie made me physically ill. The context is important, I was with a mixed group of adults and kids, some of whom were younger than 13. We were out on a holiday walk in Palm Springs, arrived at a multiplex and made a split second decision that some adults and many kids would see Sherlock Holmes. Bill and I wanted to see Up in the Air which wasn't starting for an hour, so I convinced Bill that we should watch the first hour of Sherlock Holmes and then move over. Big mistake.

Probably if I had seen it just with Bill, or perhaps my almost 15 year old, I would have been fine. But seeing it with children 13, 12, 10 and 8 tormented me on their behalf. I am increasingly appalled by what the PG-13 rating deems appropriate. I swear it's way worse than anything my parents banned me from in an R rating in the 70's (Exorcist, Jaws, French Connection, you name it, I wasn't allowed to see it).

This film opens with a series of incredibly stylized close-up attacks by Watson and Holmes as they move to interrupt macabre occult killing (and implied rape) in a ghastly hall with a young woman chained and writhing on a table. How these images could be appropriate for a 13 year old, let alone an 8 year old is beyond me. Yes, I understand PG-13 is warning parents to use caution about showing it to under 13 year olds, but so many people let their under 13s see these kinds of movies these days that you're almost made to feel prudish if you don't.

Don't get me wrong, the production values are obviously high. I could watch Robert Downey Jr. fold napkins for 2 and half hours and be fascinated (Jude Law, maybe 1/2 hour). The dialogue was snappy and entertaining, and the costume, scenery, and overall dark Victorian world of the film deserve multiple oscar nominations.

It's just that the whole idea of taking a complex detective story and turning it into a highly violent action-adventure buddy film is noxious. And the violence is just gratuitous.

I've decided I've had enough of it and I'm not seeing any more action adventure PG-13 films made today without extreme pre-vetting.

P.S. Comparing notes afterwords, my children say I saw a completely different movie than they did. They weren't traumatized. They didn't find the initial scene disturbing (until I translated it for them, in retrospect with my help they do!), and they just had a blast watching H&W run around London killing people. This past weekend, District 9 was playing in our common house and my son banned me from watching it with him. He accurately observed, "my being there would ruin your experience and your being there would ruin my experience."

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