Sacha Baron Cohen IS... Sherlock Holmes!

And Will Ferrell is Watson in new comedy

Wow. There are some films that we just don’t see coming. And this is one of them. Columbia Pictures have just announced a comedy that automatically becomes one of the most anticipated movies of the next couple of years: Sacha Baron Cohen and Will Ferrell are Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Let’s get things straight right off the bat: this as-yet untitled movie is not to be confused with Guy Ritchie’s version of Sherlock Holmes, which will be more of an action-adventure reinvention of Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective. With rights to the character having entered the public domain, there’s no limit to the number of Sherlock Holmes movies – in theory, obviously – that can be stationed at studios, and Ritchie’s project is being developed over at Warner Bros.

So it looks like we have a Dante’s Peak/Volcano, Armageddon/Deep Impact situation or, perhaps more pertinently, Robin Hood/Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves - although this may be the first time that a comedy and a straight flick about the same subject have gone head-to-head. We were already looking forward to the Ritchie version – Holmes is an iconic character that belongs on the big screen – but we’re just as pumped, if not more so, about the Cohen/Ferrell take.

We’re guessing that this one may not be entirely faithful to the Conan Doyle stories, and may indeed get the Holmes disciples up in arms, but a) as long as it’s in tandem with a more traditional take on Holmes, that’s fine by us and b) there have been comedic takes on Holmes before, including 1988’s Without A Clue, starring Michael Caine and Ben – sorry, Sir Ben – Kingsley.

Certainly, we’re hugely excited about the pairing of Cohen and Ferrell, who were last seen in Talladega Nights: The Legend Of Ricky Bobby, in which Cohen played Ferrell’s nemesis, French F1 ace, Jean Girard. Although the movie itself wasn’t fantastic, the interplay between the two stars, whenever they shared the screen, was wonderful.

We look forward to more of that chemistry this time around, as we’re pretty sure that this movie will see Watson given more screen-time than usual (which has always been strange, considering that virtually all the Holmes stories are told from Watson’s point of view), because of Ferrell’s casting. In fact, this might be more of a buddy picture, but it’s very early days at the moment.

Etan Cohen (no relation to Sacha), one of the writers of this summer’s eagerly-awaited comedy, Tropic Thunder, is penning the script, with the ubiquitous Judd Apatow and Jimmy Miller – producers of Talladega Nights and pretty much every comedy ever made, it seems – pulling producing duty. So the pedigree is there for a top-notch laughfest.

As for the casting, it’s perfect in our opinion. Though he's a long way from Basil Rathbone, the tall, dark, more thoughtful Cohen – who, with this, Talladega and Sweeney Todd, is building a career for himself beyond his own creations such as Borat and the upcoming Bruno - should make a decidedly smug and superior Holmes.

As for Ferrell's Watson, we know that the man who is Ron Burgundy (and Chazz Michael Michaels, and Jackie Moon) specialises in playing deluded, blustering fools, and since Watson often isn’t the sharpest card in the deck, this could be a match made in heaven.

There’s no word of a start date, a director (might Apatow himself step up to the plate?) or even a release date yet (we’d guess that late 2009 or even 2010 might be on the cards; Ferrell already has Land Of The Lost lined up for next summer, while an impending Actors’ Strike could also affect things), but we already can’t wait.

But what do you think, readers – are you excited by the prospect of a Ferrell/Apatow/Cohen take on Sherlock Holmes, or do you think it’s sacrilege? Do you think that there's room for a third Holmes movie, one that actually adheres to the classic Conan Doyle tales, instead of reinventing the character?

And any thoughts on the title? In keeping with Ferrell's previous movies, could it be Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Of Blah Blah Blah? Might it be a take on The Hound Of The Baskervilles? Answers on an e-postcard.