Determined to prove that he's every bit as brilliant as his older sibling, Sigerson Holmes stumbles across the clues connecting a blackmail case to a cache of missing government papers.
Having cut his screenwriting teeth with Mel Brooks on Young Frankenstein (1974), for which they shared an Oscar nomination, Gene Wilder made his debut as actor-writer-director with this affectionate, if scattershot comedy. He wisely steers clear of tinkering with the myth of 221B Baker Street's most famous resident, as that had already been done with acerbic wit and astute insight by Billy Wilder in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. But he then spends so much time paying tribute to his mentor (who crops up in an unseen cameo involving a tiger and a door) that the film too frequently feels like a Brooks pastiche rather than a slapsticking satirical homage to the world created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
As was to be the case with Thom Eberhardt's Without a Clue, in which Holmes turns out to be wholly Dr Watson's invention, the idea that Sherlock (or `Sheer luck', as Sigerson calls him) has an envious younger brother is potentially intriguing. What's more, Terry Marsh's 1890s designs are splendidly excessive and Wilder has surrounded himself with notable members of Brooks's stock company - including the inimitable Madeline Kahn as Foreign Secretary John Le Mesurier's ditzy daughter and Dom DeLuise as her duplicitous opera-singing fiancé - as well as such British dependables as Leo McKern as Professor Moriarty and Marty Feldman as a retired Scotland Yard flatfoot with photographic hearing. However, the case afoot fails to seize the imagination, despite a laboured attempt to invest it with a twist. Moreover, too many of the gags seem one rewrite undercooked or overdone. There are several wince-inducing moments of cod Holmesian embarrassment and some choice smut. The operatic finale, involving a drugged chorus, is also executed with gusto. But Wilder never feels in total directorial control, especially of his own over-eager performance.
Gene Wilder's grand effort fails to convince as a satire and mainly falls flat as an out-an-out slapstick comedy.