“Everything,” comes the arch reply from Holmes (Robert Downey Jr), which in a nutshell sums up Guy Ritchie’s knowing, subversive take on arguably the greatest fictional detective of them all. Purists might reject the knockabout comedy of Ritchie’s opening gambits here, which echo Ritchie’s original ‘reboot’ of the Holmes oeuvre in 2009; they may also protest against the fact that Holmes’ last case, in which he confronts his intellectual equal and criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) in a winner-takes-all showdown at the Reichenbach Falls, is played largely as broad farce.
Loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Final Problem, the story finds Holmes’ life under threat as Moriarty goes to extraordinary lengths to prevent the detective from discovering that Moriarty’s master-plan involves fomenting war in Europe, so as to reap the financial rewards of killing on an industrial scale. That motive is deliciously cynical, and perhaps even timely given the squabbles in Brussels over the future direction of Europe, but Ritchie and his screenwriters seem happiest when debunking the Holmes myth, particularly in their efforts to inject a homoerotic element into the tale. At one point, for example, Holmes tosses Dr Watson (Jude Law) into a river from a moving train whilst disguised as a woman, leading Watson to protest that he and Holmes are in a partnership, rather than a relationship. Meanwhile, a secondary sub-plot involving Noomi Rapace as the most unconvincing gypsy ever committed to celluloid is a complete waste of time. For all its faults the movie does have a ramshackle charm that benefits hugely from Downey Jr’s chutzpah as he plays the bowdlerised Holmes with a comically straight bat, his perpetually perplexed (and badly bruised) features offering a wry commentary on Sherlock Holmes’ legendary intellect. There’s also the bonus of Stephen Fry mugging furiously as Holmes’ even more intelligent brother, Mycroft, although the world is in a bad enough state of chassis without Guy Ritchie offering us a flash of Stephen Fry’s bum.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (G) is the third movie to feature the helium-voiced Alvin (voiced by Justin Long) and his furry partners in crime, Simon and Theodore, who have at this point in the franchise established themselves as superstars of the pop world along with their female counterparts, The Chipettes (variously voiced by Anna Faris, Amy Poehler and Christina Applegate). The sextet embark on a cruise ship as a reward for all their hard work, under the eagle eye of their manager Dave (Jason Lee), only to wreak havoc and find themselves cast away on a tropical island. There they encounter a mad castaway woman (Jenny Slate) and a volcano on the verge of eruption. Can Alvin lead his chipmunk friends to safety? As always, the big stumbling block for adults is the migraine-inducing high-pitched voices of Alvin & Co, but once the white noise has settled down, Chipwrecked is a harmless little fable about feckless kids (of all ages) learning to take responsibility for their actions. It’s all very clunky story-wise, of course, but its very young target demographic won’t mind that, and director Mike Mitchell even tosses in a few adult-friendly gags, the best of which comes at the expense of Sarah Palin. And if all else fails, there’s always the gorgeous tropical island setting to distract you.
Set in a significantly more realistic milieu, Ballymun Lullaby (G) offers a rose-tinted view of the suburban blight of the neglected Ballymun housing complex in north county Dublin. Frank Berry’s documentary opens with grainy black-and-white footage of inner-city Dublin protests against housing shortages, and quickly covers the history of Ballymun, which was originally conceived, in the 1960s, as a bold step forward towards a bright, shiny and modern Ireland. The recent demolition of the iconic tower blocks forms the immediate context to Berry’s tale of rejuvenation, which is a personal tale rather than a political one, as local musician Ron Cooney tirelessly works with the kids of Ballymun’s school, introducing them to the joys of making music and brings the current crop together to make the CD that bears this film’s name. It’s an uplifting story of what can be achieved with a blend of energy, optimism and pragmatic application of raw talent, even if the film is shot through with a bittersweet tone that comes from the audience being aware that the CD, which was released in 2009, sank without trace.