We live in the age of inter-textuality. Everywhere we look we are bombarded by replicas, forgeries, tributes, spoofs, parodies, sequels, prequels, translations, imitations, inspirations and plain rip-offs. It’s inescapable, and the notion of experiencing anything in a vacuum is nothing more than a myth. Every single writing, film, drawing, musical composition, ad and any type of text, including every single word we ever communicate is nothing more than a transformation of something that has already been done before.
When it comes to movies, this age of connectivity has blossomed to an onslaught of parodies and tongue in cheek comments aimed at being ‘relevant’ with the social issues. The Simpsons does this better than anybody. And even though spoofs seem to be something that have garnered steam in the last 15 years or so, too mixed results to say the least, there are some examples of movies that pre-dated the quick cash driven releases of the current age. Without a Clue (1988) is an example of a spoof from the 80s.
Sherlock Holmes is an iconic character to say the least, and even though their seems to be a recent resurgence in the movie industry for this character (Sherlock series, and the Downey Jr. adaptations), interest in this character goes back to 1900 with a less than one minute short called Sherlock Holmes Baffled. Without a Clue directed by Thom Eberhardt, and starring Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley and Lysette Anthony is one film that pokes fun at the most prolific screen character of all time.
In this movie the real brilliant detective is Dr.Watson (Kingsley), and Holmes (Caine) is nothing more than a front to hide the brilliant detective. Holmes is actually an actor hired by Watson, and as proven over and over again throughout the 100 minute or so runtime, he is also a highly ineffectual and arrogant actor.
The plot centers on some counterfeit bills, but it’s really not much of a consequence, and the villain is Moriarty who is played as more of a pantomime villain than anything else.
The success of Without a Clue rests on the shoulders of its leads, and Caine and Kingsley do not disappoint. Despite the lackluster plot, the charismatic leads hold the film together and make every scene, especially the ones they share, worth viewing. Caine is a particular joy to watch, an actor at the top of his game and one that is clearly enjoying his trade at this time anyway. Caine plays an actor playing Holmes perfectly, with every blank stare and empty phrase he truly makes you believe that he really is clueless. Kingsley portrays Watson as a serious and scorned individual, it might be rigid for some but he combines with Caine’s buffoonery brilliant.
Without a Clue is a sadly unknown comedy, a spoof that finds itself placed comfortably in the positive end of the parody spectrum. If it weren’t for the predictable plot, which is nothing more than slightly amusing at times, this could have truly been a gem, but as it is it is just a way to watch two brilliant actors have some fun.