Canadian Sherlock Holmes expert gives film thumbs up despite inaccuracies

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TORONTO - A Canadian Sherlock Holmes expert is giving the new film starring Roberty Downey Jr. a thumbs-up, though he says it bears little in common with the original stories.
Yes, spotting the differences between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes tales - published between 1887 and 1927 - and director Guy Ritchie's high-octane new action film, is elementary.
"I didn't find much resemblance between the film and the authentic Sherlock Holmes, but I certainly enjoyed the film," said Chris Redmond, a Waterloo, Ont., native who has written three books on Holmes and maintains the website,
"(It's) very entertaining in a quite different genre from anything that Arthur Conan Doyle ever thought up."
Already a hit with movie-goers (the film crossed the $138-million mark in North American grosses over the weekend), "Sherlock Holmes" ran the risk of offending purist fans by recasting its lead character as a spry, Indiana Jones-esque screen hero who cracks as many skulls as cases.
"The most dramatic difference (between the movie and the stories) is that Holmes is presented essentially as a physical adventurer with battles and chasing rather than as primarily a detective, somebody who reasons out a puzzle, who looks at clues and solves mysteries," said Redmond, whose "Sherlock Holmes Handbook" is in its second edition.
"There's a little bit of that in this film, but that really isn't the dominant feature."
In fact, Redmond, 60, says the film owes much more to Basil Rathbone's iconic Holmes movies, released between 1939 and '46, the 1985 Barry Levinson-directed film "Young Sherlock Holmes" and the 1979 film "Murder by Decree," which starred Canadian Christopher Plummer as the pipe-huffing detective.
"The whole plot point of Holmes and Watson themselves being in danger is much more suggestive of the Rathbone (movies)," he said.
"There's hardly one of the Rathbone movies in which one of either Holmes or Watson doesn't get captured by the villains at some point, it's kind of melodramatic, whereas that doesn't happen in the authentic stories."
And yet, Redmond says the new "Sherlock Holmes" film does get a few details right.
The scene in which a shirtless, greased-up Downey tosses bone-crunching punches at a brute twice his size - in slow-motion, of course - might have seemed a bit out of character for the ponderous detective.
But Redmond points out that Holmes' boxing experience was referenced numerous times in the original stories - though he also notes that in all 60 of those tales, Holmes was drawn into a fight only once, not "every 15 minutes" as in the film.
He also thought the relationship between Holmes and his faithful sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) was "beautifully presented."
"I think the psychological subtlety was really well thought through and very nicely put on the screen," he said.
"The sort of tension and bantering between these two young men, who nevertheless clearly appreciate each other and rely on each other, I think that's very true to the Holmes and Watson that Doyle was writing about in the first place. I think that makes up for a lot of differences in other respects."
In the film, Holmes and Watson bicker back-and-forth constantly, while Holmes petulantly strives to derail Watson's marriage engagement.
Downey has said in interviews that his Holmes might, in fact, be gay. Redmond says that idea has been around for a long time - at least since Billy Wilder's 1970 film, "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes."
But he suggests an alternate reading of the material.
"Certainly in Watson's case, he's very heterosexual - he keeps getting married," said Redmond.
"In Holmes' case, probably Doyle had in mind somebody who was so intellectual and so tied up in his work that he really doesn't have much of a sexuality.
"And that is not in fashion in this decade, so people have trouble recognizing that possibility."

Organizations: North American

Geographic location: TORONTO, Waterloo

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