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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.22%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 11.11%
Pretty Bad66.67%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Hound of the Baskervilles, The (2000)
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by Jay Seaver

"Matt Frewer as Sherlock Holmes - as fearsome as any spectral dog."
2 stars

I have to admit, I've been alternately looking forward to and dreading this one since we came up with the month of Sherlock Holmes idea. You can't really ignore it, since CTV and Hallmark Entertainment made four Sherlock Holmes movies in the early 2000s, the most ambitious project between the Brett series and the Downey movie. But it doesn't take a very close look to suspect that they won't be great.

I've summarized two other version of The Hound of the Baskervilles in the past couple weeks, so lets stick to basics: Elder Baskerville dies. Family physician (Gordon Masten), worried about heir Sir Henry (Jason London), engages Sherlock Holmes (Matt Frewer). Holmes sends Dr. Watson (Kenneth Welsh) to Baskerville Hall with Sir Henry. Sir Henry meets neighbor (Robin Wilcock), falls for neighbor's sister (Emma Campbell). Something fishy about butler Barrymore (Arthur Holden) and his wife (Leni Parker). Escaped killer.

The cast is a fairly anonymous collection of Canadian character actors, with the notable exception of the man playing Sherlock, Matt Frewer. I go back and forth on Frewer; when I first saw him in Max Headroom and Doctor, Doctor, I thought he was brilliant. Then, after seeing him in a great many lesser productions, I figured that he wasn't very good at all, and those excellent performances were the result of fortuitous casting - an impression only strengthened by the occasional noteworthy performance more recently. Now, I tend to think that he plays up or down to the material: Put him in a quality program, and he rises to the occasion. Stick him in something uninspired, and he'll ham it up in the hopes of giving the audience at least a little bit of entertainment during an otherwise dull hour or two. Sometimes that works; sometimes it drags a borderline production down.

This version of Hound, sad to say, is one of the uninspired ones, but also not one filled with enough rank incompetence that Frewer cutting loose is a highlight; indeed, his flamboyance winds up a net negative. That is, when he's there; of all the versions of this story that I've seen (I count at least five), this one keeps Holmes off-stage for by far the longest, with much of the on-screen sleuthing to be done by Watson. The movie runs ninety minutes, and after Watson leaves Holmes behind in London at roughly the half-hour mark, it takes until less than ten minutes are left for Holmes to reveal himself. When he does, it's with a few oddly comedic lines that seem inappropriate, coming so close to the climax, after we've spent half the movie watching Welsh and London blandly but ably walk us through the familiar story.

"Bland and able" isn't so bad. Welsh, London, and company are good enough, in that they never seem to break character or stumble over lines. This is the sort of movie, though, where they're reciting lines rather than appearing to live them. We get very little sense of a relationship between characters; just people spouting familiar lines to a familiar story. London is pretty good, as is Welsh, though everyone else is a rung down. Frewer is at least memorable as Holmes; he's just reciting lines, too, but he's going to get the most out of them.

On a strictly technical level, this is a very nice-looking movie. Perhaps a little sharper and better lit than you might expect for a Victorian-era movie - the insides of 221B Baker Street and Baskerville Hall are spotless and don't look candle-lit - but some effort has been put into building the world, rather than trying to hide limitations with shadows and fog. The script awkwardly tries to inject a few humorous lines, but and its heart is in the right place when Watson complains about Holmes's pipe-smoking, much as I laughed at the inauthenticity of Welsh delivering those lines. The actual hound is, to put it generously, not great.

Admittedly, this is the fourth version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" I have seen in relatively rapid succession, and it makes sense to be a little jaded; there are no surprises left and it must bear comparison with other versions. It comes up short in almost all comparisons, though, and certainly doesn't entice me to seek out the three other movies that this team made.

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originally posted: 12/22/09 16:00:00
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User Comments

2/06/19 J Carp Kenneth Welsh could have been more inspired, Matt Frewer got on my nerves. 3 stars
9/20/15 Danielsan Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books will love this adaption.Jeremy Brett is fantastic. 5 stars
2/13/10 Joe Bruzek I loved it, Matt & the cast were awesome, this critic doesen't have a clue? 5 stars
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