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Originally published December 15, 2011 at 12:03 AM | Page modified December 17, 2011 at 5:07 PM

Movie review

'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' plays a lot like the original

A movie review of "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. It's a lot like the first one, just longer and more stuffed full of locations and bullets and smartly tattered costumes.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2.5 stars

'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,' with Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams. Directed by Guy Ritchie, from a screenplay by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 121 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material. Several theaters.

quotes Jeremy Brett was so careful to craft an image of Holmes as a Victorian Era detective. ... Read more
quotes LAAAAME. Watch the BBC (2010) Sherlock! It's fantastic! Read more
quotes Saw it last night and totally enjoyed it. Its entertainment everyone, not meant to chan... Read more

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Sometimes a sequel is simply a second helping: more of the same, and not quite as appetizing as the first round. Guy Ritchie's 2009 "Sherlock Holmes" was a surprising pleasure, thanks to the zippy camaraderie between Robert Downey Jr. as the Master of Deduction and Jude Law as his beleaguered sidekick, Dr. Watson. An odd pleasure, to be sure — Ritchie's bizarre melding of Victorian England with the slow-motion, bullets-flying action of a contemporary gangster movie, sent more than a few eyebrows skyward — but a genuine one, with Downey contributing yet another perfectly timed comic turn. (And it didn't hurt that he looks marvelous in a cravat.)

Now here we are again with "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," and it's ... a lot like the first one, just longer and more stuffed full of locations and bullets and smartly tattered costumes. And like that second plate of mashed potatoes, it's just not quite as much fun.

This time around, the gentlemen are joined not just by Rachel McAdams' saucy Irene Adler, but by the Napoleon of Crime himself, Professor Moriarty (played by Jared Harris, best known as Lane Pryce on TV's "Mad Men"); other new faces are Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish-language "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" movies) as a gypsy fortune teller, and the perpetually plummy-voiced Stephen Fry ("Wilde") as Holmes' older brother, Mycroft.

By way of plot, Moriarty — Holmes' famous nemesis from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books — has done something perfectly dreadful, but it doesn't much matter what, as the movie's more interested in throwing its characters from speeding trains, watching them perform slow-motion ballet around gunfire, and coming up with a nonsensical reason for Fry to march around naked, which he does with his usual aplomb. It's diverting, and occasionally enjoyable as Downey and Law continue their cranky, fraternal sparring (it's as if these two have one continual but frequently interrupted conversation, perpetually irritated with each other yet devoted), and Fry's a welcome addition, particularly when he cheerily addresses his brother as "Sherly."

But Ritchie and the screenwriters (Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney) don't seem to know what to do with Harris' Moriarty — he's a fine actor who barely registers in the movie — or Rapace's shimmering gypsy. (Somebody get this actress, who lights up the screen like a fire at midnight, a better role. But let her keep the outfits.)

There's enough fun to be had in "Game of Shadows" to justify the ticket price for fans, but just barely. If a third game is afoot, let's hope Ritchie and the rest have a few more ideas up their velvet sleeves.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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