50/50 Review #30: Sherlock Jr.

Where to start? Well, it's certainly the shortest film I've ever had to review for any project, clocking in at 44 minutes (and the oldest on this particular project). The film follows a movie projectionist (Buster Keaton) who dreams of being a detective. But on the day he proposes to his girlfriend (Kathryn McGuire), a man (Ward Crane) steals the girlfriend's father's (Joe Keaton) pocketwatch... and then frames the projectionist for it. While being depressed about having to leave his girlfriend, the projectionist falls asleep at work while screening a film about a jewelry thief and dreams himself entering the film as Sherlock Jr., the greatest detective who has ever lived.

This being my first Keaton, I wasn't too sure what to expect. You see him rightfully compared a lot to Chaplin, though a lot find him to be even better... and I can understand why. He's similar, yet very different. Though I'm not sure I can exactly point out how... or even want to try until I see more Keaton films. I'd say the biggest thing I can think of just looking at this one film is that Chaplin tends to be more purely slapstick with emotion coming in when necessary, while Keaton keeps emotion at the core of every gag, whether that's emotion between characters or a clear love of what he's putting into the film.

This little film had me laughing out loud at numerous points. I'd say the two highlights being what I call the "Daffy Duck" segment and the "Pool" segment. The Daffy Duck segment is when Keaton first enters the film and then basically spends the next 5 minutes purely showing off. He wanders around on screen, but the setting keeps changing, putting him in awkward situations. In the context of the film he just walked into, it makes absolutely no sense... but it's so much fun that you really don't care. The Pool segment has the bad guys replacing the 13-ball with an explosive that will detonate on being hit, but Keaton manages to do every trick in the book to not hit that ball... and how the scene ends is just perfect.

This is one of those "I can't write this without gushing about everything" type of reviews that just suck to write. What's not to love about this? It has all the fun of a slapstick silent film, but adds in meta qualities, puns, and even some clever wit in the story titles (a personal favorite being along the lines of "Sherlock Jr had absolutely solved the case--except for finding the pearls and figuring out who the thief is"). And you all know how I love meta, puns, and wit. It's just a genius little film, and I strongly suggest it to... anyone. My biggest complaint? Much like this review... it's too short!

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese


  1. This is, hands down, my favorite silent film.

  2. I think this is my favourite Keaton film, I absolutely loved it!

    1. It's currently my favorite Keaton, as well. :P

  3. Oh boy... you've got lots of good Keaton fun coming your way if this was your introduction.

  4. I figured you'd dig this one. The meta aspect coupled with the great comedic stile makes it a winner. I do think you're onto something about the comedic gags having a bit more of an emotional weight to them than most of Chaplin's work.

    I'd definitely recommend watching more Keaton. I'm not sure if you'll like any of his other films more than this. You'll probably enjoy The Cameraman the most so I'd recommend that one next.


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