Sherlock Jr. (1924)

At the beginning of "Sherlock Jr" we are given a proverb—"Don't try to do two things at once and expect to do justice to both." Then we are told that we are about to see the story of a man who tried just that, and of course, failed.
But the movie soon looses its moral when Buster Keaton takes over the screen. It becomes more about the fun, the adventure, and the love—which I'm fine with...but, what does two things at once have to do with anything?
Keaton plays a movie projectionist/janitor who dreams of becoming a detective. He's gone through all the motions of being a sleuth—he's got a magnifying glass, a passion, the book, and (naturally) the mustache. Yet there are not enough mysteries lingering around the movie theater so he puts his crime solving tendencies on the side and pursues love instead. There's a girl that he likes, and who likes him too. But there's also a taller, stronger, and more mustached man who likes this girl too. This other man is devious and a thief and frames our wannabe detective for a burglary. The girl's family ostracizes the man and he returns to the theater, heartbroken and soon falls asleep at the projector and dreams of solving crimes.
In his dream he becomes Sherlock Jr., a man who is calm, cool, and intelligent.
I have only seen one other Buster Keaton movie, "The General", but that too was about a loss of respect and the gaining of it back. Keaton never plays a hero, rather a klutz who is forced into a hero's shoes by unexplainable circumstances. "Sherlock Jr." has the same thought behind it—a man who can't readily defend himself wants to prove his valor but is unable to, the only way he can be a hero is in his dreams. The movie is much more cheerful than this mind you, but the thought is still there.
"Sherlock Jr." isn't all laughs, rather adult things are alluded to and it makes you forget that this movie was made in the early 20s.
Keaton is a likable protagonist, we like to cheer for the underdog and he makes such a empathetic one that it's almost heartless not to like him.
The score behind "Sherlock Jr." is much more modern than the movie itself, and at times distracting.
As usual, the stunts are pretty fantastic in "Sherlock Jr.". It's nice to look back on a movie that was made nearly 90 years ago and still not know how some of the stunts were accomplished.
Perhaps the ending note isn't as loving as we would like to see—"Sherlock Jr." seems to be saying that it's impossible to have a dream job. Whatever we aspire to be may be out of our reach.
Maybe it's simply saying that multitasking is a bad idea, that seems like a silly thought; but stranger things have happened. "Sherlock Jr." is not as much about the regaining of honor as "The General" is; but that element is still strong within the film. It's resolved in a completely different method though, so I suppose that it's not hitting the exact same notes.
Obviously that's reading way too far into this film which is supposed to be light, fun, and entertaining—and it succeeds in all three.

Score: 3 out of 4 stars

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