Matt's Review of Sherlock Jr.
Buster Keaton is one of the kings of silent comedy, on the same level as other comedians such as Charlie Chaplin. But while Chaplin successfully combined pathos with comedy, Buster has mastered the art of the straight face and stunt work. Keaton has had lots a great work (e.g. The General) but I believe that his greatest accomplishment would be his short comedy Sherlock Jr.
Sherlock does not feature the famous Doyle detective to which the name derives. The movie is instead about a film projectionist (Buster Keaton) who dreams of becoming a detective. He tries to woo the woman of his dreams with material object, though he is so down on his luck.
But then he is framed by a fellow suitor for the crime of stealing and pawning the watch of the girl's father. Depressed, the projectionist retreats to a movie fantasy world, where he is Sherlock Jr., the greatest detective in the world, who investigates a "simple" case of the theft of a necklace, with the help of his sidekick Gillette ("a gem of a character ever ready in a scrape").
The movie features impossible-looking effects, stunts and magic tricks, entertain the viewer from start to finish. Its gags are bar none. For example, when Buster decides to "closely" shadow his suspect, or when Sherlock Jr. rides a bike driverless all the way to the criminal's location, passing by tons of obstacles on the way, a hilarious road scene that would not be equaled until W.C. Fields' gaspingly funny film The Bank Dick and its climactic chase scene.
Sherlock's inventiveness has the viewer guess how did they did this way back in 1924, especially the scene where Buster literally jumps into the film. So far, I believe it is one of most inventive technical silent comedy I have ever seen. Kudos, Keaton.
**** out of ****