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Welcome the weirdness: Sean Penn joins “Stooges” production

Sean Penn fans are a fanatical bunch. (Trust me. I am one.) We use the good — his performances in “Fast Times,” “Dead Man Walking,” “21 Grams” and “Mystic River” for starters — to excuse away all the paparazzi beatings, the awkward interviews, the bizarrely off-putting behavior, the snide comments, the moments when he made it, in his words, so hard to appreciate him. And we tend to believe he can do anything, or we at least appreciate the fact that he’ll damn near kill himself trying. I mean, the guy directed a Jewel music video.

But playing Larry Fine in the Farrelly brothers’ 2010 send-up to “The Three Stooges”? Alongside Benicio Del Toro as Moe and Jim Carrey as Curly?

Somebody call Robert Downey Jr. I think Penn just went full retard … again.

And yet, as tempted as I — and so many fans — might be to write this off as pure lunacy, I can’t quite do it. Penn can do comedy; anybody who’s seen “Fast Times” knows that. He was low-key and funny in his “Friends” and “Two and a Half Men” cameos. He found pain and, more importantly, humor in “Milk.” Is it really so difficult to believe there’s a sense of humor buried beneath all those layers and layers of seething rage that would make Ray Liotta hide under the bed with his yellow blankie?

Lest you think I’m some sort of weirdo with a Sean Penn shrine made of cold cuts in my closet, I’ll go a step further and say there are two more reasons why “The Three Stooges” could, in theory, work: Benicio Del Toro and Jim Carrey. Think about it. No, really, think about it. With his mumbly, indecipherable accent, wasn’t Del Toro the funniest character in “The Usual Suspects”? Then there’s “Excess Baggage,” where he played a bewildered, bumbling accidental kidnapper who easily matched wits with Alicia Silverstone. He nailed the physical comedy there; I think Del Toro can pull this off. And love him or hate him, Carrey’s cornered the market on spastic slapstick and comical yet disturbing facial expressions — The Mask,” “Ace Venture: Pet Detective,” “Dumb and Dumber” … you get the picture. He could do this in his sleep; in fact, I think that’s how he made “Liar Liar.”

Yes, the only potential weak link is, uh, the directors (and the top, I admit, is not a primo spot for a weak link). Bobby and Peter Farrelly had their heyday in the 1990s, peaking with “Kingpin” (good) and “There’s Something about Mary” (eh). But “The Heartbreak Kid” flopped like Nemo on dry land; even Rob “I’m growin’ out my bangs” Corddry couldn’t save it. So it all hinges on whether the Brothers Dim try to force this ragtag trio to ape the real Stooges (bad idea!) or let Penn, Del Toro and Carrey find their characters themselves (great idea!).

As for me, I’m thinking this movie’s way to success. What? There’s a reason “The Secret” has sold a quintillion copies worldwide. Just, uh, do me a favor and don’t tell Penn. He’d probably mock me.

Weak characters mar visually impressive “Watchmen”

Jackie Earle Haley brings Rorschach to menacing life in "Watchmen."

Jackie Earle Haley brings Rorschach to menacing life in "Watchmen."

A formidable, CGI-enhanced blue man with glowing skin who takes jaunts to Mars and has an apparent dislike of undergarments. A raven-haired beauty poured into a costume that makes her look part dominatrix, part horribly underfed yellow jacket. A gruff-voiced vigilante with a constantly shifting Rorschach test of a face. There’s no doubt “Watchmen” is a veritable smorgasbord for the senses. But does Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel create a world where the characters engage us as much as the special effects do?

Meh, not quite. There are a few intriguing characters — Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach, a true sociopath, deserves the inaugural Creepiest Masked Avenger Ever award — but the rest are underdeveloped and weak. Perhaps there was something lost in the novel-to-screen translation (isn’t there always?), but in “Watchmen” it feels like the casting director started clicking wildly on the Internet Movie Database and ended up with this cast — a ragtag group that has little camaraderie and even less chemistry. With few exceptions, the characters fall flat. And if there’s one thing that kills a superhero movie, it’s flat characters (remember “Superman Returns”?).

To be fair, maybe the actors get lost in the plot, a relatively easy task considering there’s gobs and gobs of it that take almost three hours to sort out. (For diehard comic fans, the 163-minute running might feel too short; to the rest of us, it feels far too long.) There are plots and subplots and parallel storylines running rampant, and Snyder unveils them in fractured, disjointed fashion. First, there’s the business of America in 1985. In Moore’s vision, it’s a nation governed by Richard Nixon, now settling in for his third term as president. Masked heroes have been banned, and the mistake is realized a little too late — tensions between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. have bubbled over, pushing the alert to DefCon 1. Nuclear war is imminent, but the Watchmen — vigilante Rorschach; disenfranchised techno whiz kid Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson); Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), the all-powerful result of a magnetic mishap; Silk Spectre II (Malin Ackerman), trying to live up to her mother’s reputation; and Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), the smartest man in the world — have bigger problems. Someone’s picking off the scorned heroes one by one, starting with the amoral Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

How do these plots converge? That I won’t say, though fans of the novel already know the answer. Part of the fun is watching the events unfold. Frame for frame, “Watchmen” feels every inch a dark graphic novel put to screen. (Note, however, that it’s less visually impressive than Snyder’s “300.” But who’s splitting hairs?) Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan, in particular, stands up to the CGI makeover in a way, say, The Hulk never did — though he’s as shy about showing his blue jewels as Britney is about showing her … never mind. Rorschach’s mask is particularly inventive. And the movie’s opening credits make excellent use of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Artfully staged, the credits condense years of timelines and backstory into a minutes-long music video of sorts. It’s so well done that only three things can be said about it: 1) It’s history come alive; 2) The song perfectly captures the ebb and flow of heroic glory; and 3) It’s great fun to watch.

Too bad the same can’t be said for the characters. There’s no fancy way to say it: They’re dull, flat and unsympathetic. Wilson and Goode — both fine dramatic actors — are rather spectacularly miscast as Nite Owl II and Ozymandius. They try to play cool and subtle in “Watchmen,” and it doesn’t work in a movie with no room for subtleties.  That goes double for Akerman, one of the weakest, one-note actresses working in Hollywood today. Her dialogue, her interactions with Wilson and her mother (Carla Cugino), even her expressions all seem forced — or bland beyond words.

Yet there are a few notable exceptions. With Rorschach, Haley, an enormously talented actor relegated to ensemble parts, bests his Oscar-nominated performance in “Little Children.” Skulking in the shadows and exacting his brand of justice with menacing glee, Rorschach is a frightening creation similar to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Nowhere is that more evident that when he’s thrown in jail and stripped of his mask. He screams a warning: “I’m not locked up in here with you. You’re locked up in here with me.” Delivered with animalistic ferocity, it’s a truly disturbing line, and it creates a scene that will haunt your dreams. Haley deserves an Oscar nod for his work here — he’s that good.

Crudup, Cugino and Morgan, too, create memorable characters. Crudup, who gets about 10 minutes total of screen time, gives life to Jon Osterman (pre-Dr. Manhattan), showing us the measure of a life ruined by a freak accident that cut off his ability to feel for humankind. As the original Silk Spectre, a boozy wreck of a fallen hero drowning unpleasant memories in martinis, Cugino turns in a fine, layered performance. There’s a hollow sadness in her eyes that’s hard to ignore. As for Morgan, well, he gets the juiciest role as the Comedian, a crude, unfeeling hulk who wants what he wants when he wants it and doesn’t care to understand why. In his way he’s darker and more frightening than Rorschach because The Comedian flaunts his strength and uses it against everyone, even the victims he rescues. But Morgan scarcely gets the chance to dig deeper into his psyche before the role’s cut short. That gripe extends to the movie as a whole: the uninteresting characters get too much screen time and the great ones are woefully underused. It’s a small complaint, but it translates to a huge mistake that turns “Watchmen” from an intriguing character study into an average caped hero movie.

Grade: C

“I Love You, Man” a pithy, sweet tale of dude love

Dude love abides in John Hamburg's "I Love You, Man."

Dude love abides in John Hamburg's "I Love You, Man."

Confession Number One: I’ve been madly in love with Paul Rudd since 1995. He had me at “You look like Pippi Longstocking.”

Confession Number Two: My wildest fantasy still involves the adorable Nick Andopolis (a.k.a. Jason Segel) clad in his dingiest Styx T-shirt serenading me with “Lady.”

Confession Number Three: When I heard the twain would meet in “I Love You, Man,” I began grasping for the smelling salts to fend off the fainting spell I knew was coming. Then I hunkered down and waited for March 20.

The point of this little closet unloading session? To proffer a warning: What you’re about to read is a review replete with bias. (You’ll probably walk away with a little on your shoe.) Sure, I could try to push it aside, but why? Truth be told, Rudd and Segel are so good together — think Felix and Oscar meet Ren and Stimpy — they deserve heaps-o-praise … even if it is delivered by someone who once made a Paul Rudd collage (I feel your scorn, and I accept it).

In fact, that’s where “I Love You, Man,” a perceptive but formulaic brom-com, succeeds: the scenes where Rudd’s sensitive, “Chocolat”-loving L.A. realtor Peter Klaven plays off Segel’s schleppy, hyperconfrontational slacker Sydney Fife. They have the kind of disarming chemistry necessary to charm your pants right off.

But first we must wade through the pat setup: Peter’s more Merlot than Budweiser, so he hits a wall when his fiancee Zooey (Rashida Jones, trying to live down that undeserved “Is that Karen from ‘The Office’?” rep) asks him his pick for best man at their wedding. Oops. Peter spent so much time being the “girlfriend guy” he never made male friends. His family — including Jane Curtin as mom and scene-stealer Andy Samberg as his brother Robbie — set him up on a string of man dates with uniformly disastrous results. (Watch for the hilarious cameo by “Reno 911!” alum Thomas Lennon.) Overall, been there, seen that. Yawn.

The real fun starts when Sydney shows up at an open house Peter’s hosting to sell the palatial estate owned by Lou “The Hulk” Ferrigno. Sydney wolfs down the paninis, scouts the scene for divorcees, upbraids a farting interloper trying to impress an out-of-his-league date … and Peter falls hard. Like any couple relishing new love, they can’t get enough of each other: strolls down Venice Beach, Rush concerts, impromptu jam sessions in Sydney’s ill-lit man cave (it has a widescreen plasma! and a bitchin’ drum set!).

And so the story goes. The plot has all that you’d expect of a rom-com: boy meets boy, boy falls for boy … you get the picture. Even the pat ending feels like something that would fit fine in, say, “Sweet Home Alabama II.” Ignore all that. The real meat’s in the performances, and “I Love You, Man” is packed with great ones. The supporting cast is bang-on, including Jaime Pressley and Jon Favreau as a hilarious bicker-happy married couple and relative newcomer Sarah Burns, who comes off like a younger, bouncier Kristen Wiig. J.K. Simmons shows up as Daddy Claven to do what he does best: fire off dependably witty one-liners. Samberg, whose biggest role thus far has been Rod Kimble in “Hot Rod,” is droll perfection as a gay fitness instructor who’s grown bored with pursuing gay men and has set his sights on tougher game: the average married straight man. Yeah, he’s funny, but more impressive is his subtlety. It sneaks up on you.

And a moment of meditation on Rashida Jones: There’s a reason she was chosen for this part. She’s got the comedic timing and the pluck needed to make Zooey much more than a stereotypical needy, nagging fiancee. Here’s to hoping Hollywood wises up to her considerable talents before she’s lost to TV world forever.

But this is Rudd and Segel’s show, and they do not disappoint. Both are gifted comedic actors skilled at revealing vulnerability and humanity through comedy. They know it’s the details that matter. For Rudd, it’s all about painful pauses and inappropriate reactions. In Guy World, Peter’s the exchange student who doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know the customs but thinks he can fake it. He can’t, but watching him try is priceless. (Note with glee the various awful nicknames he dreams up for Sydney, including “Jobin” and “Totes Magotes.”) There’s something endearing about his complete ineptitude. Sydney, on the flip side, is all confidence and wild-eyed spontaneity — an unusual Tony Robbins/Gallagher hybrid. True, he’s a loud-mouthed oaf with a bad case of arrested development, but Segel shows Sydney’s smarts, kindness and also the fear lurking beneath his macho posturing. Segel and Rudd are a match made in heaven (I won’t say I told you so … I won’t say I told you so).

And that’s the thing about “I Love You, Man”: It touches on the truth that finding a best friend is a lot like falling in love. Man, woman — it doesn’t matter. Except if it’s men, there’s the slight chance a man cave with a “love your member as yourself” corner will be involved.

Grade: A-

“Iron Man 2” pumps up star power with Johansson, Rourke

She is not money, she doesn’t know it and neither does Jon Favreau.

What am I ranting about now? Well, I’ll tell you: Favreau, who put his “Swingers” fame to shame and reinvented Robert Downey Jr.’s career with the incredible “Iron Man,” has decided to cast Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow. While this news has sent men worldwide into a dizzy, dirty thought montage set to “Cherry Pie,” I am decidedly displeased. Unhappy and unamused while we’re at it.

Why? Well, if there’s one thing Scarlett’s proven over the years it’s that she peaked before puberty. Don’t believe me? Rent “Manny and Lo,” “Ghost World” or “Horse Whisperer.” Then watch, oh, any of the following — “The Prestige,” “Scoop,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Match Point,” etc. etc. What you’ll notice about the latter films is that she plays the same character. Every. Single. Time. She’s the husky-voiced sexpot with hair so frighteningly blond I fear the bleach has leaked into her brain and made her think she must turn every character into a Husky-Voiced Sexpot. (I’m certain that’s why she released that dreadful CD, anyway.) She has no range. She looks and sounds ridiculous in period pieces, so she was awful in “The Other Boleyn,” “The Prestige” and “Black Dahlia.” The worse news is that she’s only marginally talented at playing the only part she knows how to play. (“Lost in Translation,” as far as I’m concerned, was a blip on the radar. ) So I expect with “Iron Man 2” she revamp her HVS role. Joy.

The news isn’t all bad, though. It seems Rourke, fresh off the Oscar loss, is ready to prove “The Wrestler” was no happy accident. Can he play a villain? If you’re like me and you’ve seen “Spun,” you know that answer — of course he can. The years haven’t been kind to Mickey’s face, but they’ve clearly made him an actor capable of tackling one-note characters and making them amusing, empathetic, even downright creepy. He made my skin crawl as The Cook in “Spun,” the best “meth movie” to date, so I’m not worried. Throw in a little Don Cheadle as Col. Rhodes and Tim Robbins, who’s rumored to be set to play Howard Stark, and I’ll overlook that whole ScarJo mishap.

Well, almost.

Netflix Pick: “Army of Darkness”

In “Ghost World,” Thora Birch said it best: “After about five minutes of this movie, you’re gonna wish you had 10 beers.”

If it’s the ultra-campy Army of Darkness, better make that 20.

OK, cult film fans, before you storm my bedroom with your period-accurate samurai swords aimed at my throat, let me explain: I’m a fan of camp. “Harold and Maude” has a permanent spot on my Top 10 Best Movies Ever Made. I’ve made it a personal goal to see every horribly overacted and overdubbed Godzilla movie; hell, I even own the VHS tapes of “Godzilla Vs. Megalon,” “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” and “King Kong Vs. Godzilla.” So believe me when I say that there’s plenty to enjoy about “Army of Darkness” (most of it involving oh-so-dreamy Bruce Campbell, who rips into Ash like a man possessed by a spritely, comic demon who’s seen one too many Seagal movies).

I’m just saying it’s a movie best enjoyed under the heavy, heavy influence of alcohol.

Consider the trippy plot: Discount store automaton Ash (Campbell), hero of “The Evil Dead” and “Evil Dead II,” ends up in 1300 A.D., where the locals believe him to be the warrior able to seek out Necronomicon, a book that possesses the power to vanquish the evil forces tormenting the medieval land. In theory it sounds like an acid trip; in practice, it’s so much more. Lunacy abounds. Ash forgets the incantation to unlock the book and instead awakens legions of evil soldiers. His blunder also creates a bigger problem: a counterpart, Evil Ash, and legions of very nimble, pissed-off skeletons. Oh, and there’s the matter of all the tiny raving-mad Ashes.

So, yes, Sam Raimi’s “Army of Darkness” is unabashedly campy. The lines are so bad they pass bad and sail right into good again. (The movie’s final line is priceless.) It’s “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” by way of “Three Stooges” with a little “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” thrown in for good measure. But the reason it works is because Raimi doesn’t skimp on the special effects (which, for 1992, are surprisingly good) or take his movie too seriously. Enter Campbell, who wrote the book (literally; it’s available at Amazon.com) on being a charming cult hero. He’s got the dashing good looks of a do-gooder and a physique capable of action stunts, but it’s his comic timing that really rocks. Campbell makes the dialogue — which could have been pulled for “Writing Action Scripts for Dummies” — into sharp, side-of-the-mouth one-liners. He’s James Dean in chainmail; he doesn’t sweat so much as ooze coollness.

And somehow, I think he’d want you to watch his movie while drinking. He’d probably mock you if you didn’t.

2009: Movies to Watch

Alas, the Oscars have come and gone. If you worship at the altar of Stephen Colbert, chances are you were not surprised by the outcome. I know I wasn’t. Check out my TV if you don’t believe me. You’ll find it refreshingly free of dents, dings, cracks and scratches. No foreign objects were harmed during The Really Big Show and, praise be to Will Scarlett O’Hara, I don’t have to make good on my promise to move to Canada. (Heath, I had your back … even though I generally don’t stick up for people dumb enough to mix Oxycontin and, you know, any other painkiller ever invented ever.)

But now I need a little something to lift me out of my post-Oscar funk. And what better way to forget about the past than charging headlong into the future? So here’s a treatise (more like a random sampling) of the 2009 movies I’m jumpier than a virgin at a prison rodeo to see:

  • Sunshine Cleaning (March 13) — Like anyone else nerdy enough to seek out IFC films, I fell in love with Amy Adams in Junebug, where I became convinced an actress who could make me love a character that cheerful and perky can do anything. She elevates any film she’s in, so imagine my excitement at the prospect of seeing her paired with the divine Emily Blunt, who stole every scene from Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. If any two actresses can pull off a comedy about two sisters who start a business cleaning up violent crime scenes, it’s these two. Sign me up.
  • The Last House on the Left (March 13) — There’s only one reason to see “Last House”: to compare it to the supremely unnerving, gripping and violent 1972 classic directed by Wes Craven. The original gets my vote as one of the most disturbing films ever made — the top spot goes, of course, to Chaos — so I have bargain-basement hopes for the remake, particularly because the most famous actor in the whole movie is Monica Potter, who’s made a career of playing vanilla characters in B movies. If it’s crap, I’m pulling for a Chernobyl-styled failure.
  • I Love You, Man (March 20) — Know how I know there’s some sort of higher power? Because Jason Segel finally gets the coveted spot as Paul Rudd’s fake best friend/wannabe best man in I Love You, Man. Finally, people are starting to see what so many of us saw from the beginning (for Segel, Freaks and Geeks; for Rudd, Clueless): Segal and Rudd are supremely gifted comedic actors who deserve to headline their own movies. Toss in Rashida Jones (who had a career before The Office, people) and I’m already whipping out my AmEx and logging on to Fandango.
  • Adventureland (March 27) — I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age movie, especially when it takes place in a theme park populated by the likes of Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. Adventureland, written by Greg Mottola (one of the brilliant minds behind Undeclared), is shaping up to be a kinder, gentler, more sophisticated Superbad. Newbie Jessie Eisenberg has a pleasingly naive William Miller quality about him, and I’m thrilled to see Freaks and Geeks grad Martin Starr (that’s Bill “You Cut Me Off Mid-Funk” Haverchuck for those not in the know) back. Add a Sno Cone and a bag of cotton candy and I’ll be in heaven.
  • The Soloist (April 24) — The fact that this movie has been shelved for more than a year worries me not. Why? Because this movie — about a journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) who befriends a homeless, brilliantly talented musician (Jamie Foxx) — has almost limitless potential. Downey Jr. is on fire these days, and Foxx continues to expand on the promise and skill he showed in Ray and Collateral. And, of course, don’t forget about Catherine Keener, a fine actress relegated to tiny bit parts. Color me excited.
  • Terminator Salvation (May 21) — I know what you’re thinking: Enough with the Terminator franchise already! I’d be inclined to agree, since I barely watched the original … and the one after that … and the one after that … and the one — well, you get the idea. But this Terminator stars none other than Batman himself, the profanity-spewing Mickey-Rourke-in-his-tender-years wannabe. Yes, post-Batman he’s become a prima donna, but Bale brings his all to every role he plays (did you see El Maquinista?). Hell, he reinvented Batman; I suspect he could do the same for John Connor.
  • Drag Me to Hell (May 29) — A horror movie starring a kinda-sorta-funny guy (Justin Long) and a talented but largely unfamous actress (Alison Lohman) about a supernatural curse. Does it get less original or more derivative than this? Hey, the plot description isn’t what sold me on this; it’s the fact that Sam Raimi — who had a fantastic career as a comic-horror cult filmmaker before the Spiderman series — is directing. He’s a superhero of a director, someone who can do horror and comedy and action. If Drag Me contains 1/16th of the pluck and wit that the Evil Dead films had, Raimi’s going down in my book as one of my favorite directors.
  • The Maiden Heist (May 29) — A museum heist involving: Marcia Gay Harden. Morgan Freeman. William H. Macy. Christopher Walken. Together. In. One. Movie. ‘Nuff said.
  • Public Enemies (July 1) — Gangster movies are a dime a dozen these days, thanks in part to the great but interminable American Gangster. This year’s high-promise gangster pic is Public Enemies, a story about the Feds’ attempt to bring down gangsters John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum). With Depp, Christian Bale and Frenchie Marion Cotilliard in the mix, this is a recipe for greatness (Denzel, eat your heart out).
  • Funny People (July 31) — Call me crazy (it’s been suggested), but I can’t think of one good reason not to see a movie where Adam Sandler plays a dying comedian who takes a newbie (Seth Rogen) under his wing. Sandler has proven he can do subtle comedy and drama just fine. Even Rogen has his moments of levity (I still say his sex scene with Elizabeth Banks is one of the sweetest and best I’ve ever seen). The trick will be finding the right tone, pitched somewhere between Little Miss Sunshine and Reign Over Me. (Added bonus: There’s the potential to see Seth Rogen cry onscreen. Can he do it?)
  • Julie & Julia (Aug. 7) — Amy Adams and Meryl Streep in the same movie? What is this, Doubt with flatware, baking soda and a cast-iron skillet? Hardly. I’ve got huge, bursting hopes for this film about a kitchen novice (Adams) who decides to cook every recipe penned by Julia Child (Streep, natch) in her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Adams and Streep were stellar together in Doubt, so I suspect this pairing — here in a much lighter, more comic setting — will be equally fantastic. And I never turn up my nose at a movie where Stanley Tucci and Jane Lynch show up in the supporting cast. C’est magnifique.
  • Jennifer’s Body (Sept. 18) — Can a violent black comedy written by Diablo Cody about a possessed, homicidal cheerleader (Megan Fox, who’s easy on the eyes and has crack comic timing) who offs male classmates be anything other than stupendous? No, no, a thousand times no, I say! Cody’s got an ear for whip-smart dialogue, and director Karyn Kusama has assembled a great team of actors — including the snarkastic Adam Brody, Cynthia Stevenson and Allison Janney — sure to make this Heathers for the Bring It On set. Rah. Totally.
  • Sherlock Holmes (Dec. 25) — The truth: I’ve been a RDJr. groupie since Less Than Zero, so I’ll watch any movie he makes and probably rave about it (I make an exception for Only You). Because, you see, he keeps taking these larger-than-life characters — Ironman/Tony Stark, Charlie Chaplin, Col. Lincoln Osiris, Dito, Harry Lockhart — and making them flawed, vulnerable and funny. He seems perfectly cast in every part, much the same way Roger Ebert said Frances McDormand does, and it would seem elementary that he’ll do a smash-up job playing the ever-droll Sherlock Holmes. And the fact that Guy Ritchie’s directing, well, that’s just icing.