The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks made an excellent team for Young Frankenstein: Wilder’s gentility leavened Brooks’s vulgarity and vice versa, somehow melding both into a whole sensibility. Alone, it’s another story for Wilder, as his The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother is so determined to be nice that it cancels out most of its opportunities for comedy. The writer/director stars as Sigerson Holmes, the resentful younger sibling of you-know-who; his day of triumph arrives when the elder Holmes fobs off a case involving stolen government documents and the music hall star (Madeline Kahn) who sold them to a proxy of Moriarty’s (Leo McKern). Unfortunately, Wilder is so enamoured of his milieu that he doesn’t do anything substantial to satirise it. There are the usual gags involving cross-dressing and bare bottoms, as well as a fencing machine run by a bicycle, but nothing that makes any use of Conan Doyle’s tropes beyond a sign on a fishmonger advertising "red herrings.” There are the beginning of some jokes in the nonsense romance between Wilder and Kahn, especially in an interrogation scene that somehow involves our man disrobing, but the director’s sensibility is too fuzzy and indistinct to give it direction or punch. Best of the bunch is Marty Feldman as Holmes’ assistant, who has a "photographic memory for sound” and acts like a tape recorder, but his razor-sharp timing isn’t enough to save it — all the flailing and bunny-hopping that surrounds him is just too damn nice to be substantially funny, and the whole thing peters out in an orgy of ill-considered fuzziness. Extras include a commentary with Wilder that’s mildly informative but mostly just obvious. (Fox)