"With apologies to the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson."
Above is the final credit to the 1988 comedy Without a Clue. The Holmes character has withstood countless spoofs and homages over the years. The disclaimer here is cute but not seriously necessary for this engaging take on those residents of 221B Baker Street.
The screenplay by television writers/producers Gary Murphy (Night Court, Malcolm in the Middle) and Larry Strawther (Night Court) is their only big-screen effort - quality over quantity. The premise is that the clever Dr. John Watson provided a case-solving clue to a Scotland Yard patient but in order to be taken seriously claimed he was passing on information from a clever private consulting detective called Sherlock Holmes. The Holmes reputation snowballed, thanks in large part to Watson's Strand magazine stories. Public demand for a "real" Holmes grew to such an extent that Watson hired actor Reginald Kincaid to play the character.
Strand editor Greenhough played by Peter Cook (see The Hound of the Baskervilles) is brought in on the deception but is not amenable to Watson's plan to kill off the troublesome Holmes. After all, Holmes is not troublesome to the coffers of the Strand.
Without a Clue is a colourful journey through Sherlock Holmes lore; from Baker Street to the Lake District to the docks of the Thames to the abandoned theatre which was the ignominious end of Reg Kincaid's theatrical career and conversely his greatest triumph. The cinematography by Alan Hume (Shirley Valentine) has a unique charm. The costume design by Judy Moorcroft (A Passage to India) is absolutely gorgeous, as well as era and character appropriate.
Without a Clue is filled with delightfully clever lines delivered skilfully by our two leading men in particular. The situations, ripe for double takes and hilarious slapstick are also carried off with great poise. Our familiarity with the characters (100 years old at the time of the movie) lends itself immediately to a spoof, but such a spoof must be good-hearted and fulfill its mandate to amuse. Mission accomplished and movie highly recommended.
Regarding my recommendation: Back in 1988 I talked up Without a Clue to co-workers. Later a woman complained, "The way you talked I thought it was something special, but it was just funny."