The premise for Without a Clue (1988) probably sounded terrific in broad strokes. Just think about it. Sherlock Holmes (Michael Caine) is really an actor hired by Dr. Watson (Ben Kingsley), who is the real brains behind the detective’s success in solving crimes. Holmes himself — in reality, Reginald Kincaid — is a drunkard, a lecher, a layabout and an all-around boob. (Why Watson would recruit such a person is never addressed.) But, there must be endless avenues to go down with this, right? OK, so what are they? Whatever they are, those responsible for the film simply do not know. So in the comedy realm, what the film does — after a set-up that suggests more than it can deliver — is illustrate that Holmes is dumb, prone to getting drunk, lecherous and generally worthless again and again and again, while Watson rolls his eyes and looks exasperated again and again and again. That is, of course, until Holmes finally proves himself. The sad thing is that the preliminaries with Watson trying to stake his claim to the recognition he deserves are actually pretty good. Moreover, the mystery about Moriarty and some stolen Bank of England plates for five pound notes is pretty good. In fact, it has similarities to the final Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film Dressed to Kill (1946). But whether it’s enough to carry the day will depend on your fondness for Caine and Kingsley — even when they aren’t given a whole lot to work with. At worst, it gets a little tedious. At best, it’s a harmless, mildly amusing diversion.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show Without a Clue Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.