Sherlock Holmes the world's foremost consulting detective is not all he appears to be for the real super sleuth is his partner Dr Watson, who chronicles their adventures for The Strand magazine. Concerned about what his conservative medical colleagues would think Watson has hired actor Reginald Kincaid to play the fictional detective. Unfortunately Kincaid is a drunk, a gambler and a womaniser, and after a falling out the pair go their separate ways, just as a dastardly plan is set in motion by the Napoleon of crime Professor Moriarty.
Sherlock Holmes is arguably the most famous literary character ever created and despite author Arthur Conan Doyle's death in 1930 has continued to fight crime in numerous incarnations on page and screen. Without A Clue playfully spoofs the conventions of his world with a frustrated Dr Watson overshadowed by his creation in the shape of Michael Caine. Caine plays Kincaid with Inspector Clouseau like levels of bumbling incompetence, misreading clues and prone to the occasional pratfall in a comedy that favours the farcical over the subtle. A deadpan performance of over earnestness and self-importance by Ben Kingsley makes his Watson a perfect foil for Caine's broader style.
The mystery involving missing monetary printing plates is a tad functional but there are a few nice touches like Holmes' celebrity status which he exploits at any given opportunity much to the sidelined Watson's annoyance. Doyle fans will be pleased by the addition of a reassuringly clueless Inspector Lestrade (Jeffrey Jones), nosey youngsters the Baker Street Irregulars and Moriarty (Paul Freeman). But it's the central performances that make this worthwhile, both actors obviously enjoying themselves and holding the film together during the occasional narrative lull.
Without A Clue doesn't have the most surprising of plots and is pretty much a one-joke movie. Having said that it's a good joke giving Caine and Kingsley the opportunity to have fun with the comic role reversal and the whole thing is complemented by an authentic Victorian feel. What on earth Doyle would have thought of it is anyone's guess, although seeing as he had grown bored of the character he'd have surely seen the funny side, as will most Holmes fans who watch this amusing if not entirely memorable caper.