“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is the sequel to the hugely popular 2009 action adventure mystery film. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law return as Holmes and Watson as does director Guy Ritchie. Unfortunately the uniqueness, humor, and charm of the first film are all but missing in the sequel. “A Game of Shadows” feels like it hits the same notes over and over and it certainly lacks the freshness of the first picture. It feels bland and generic and even the loud injections of explosions, gunfire, and fist fights can’t break the monotony.

That’s a pretty harsh way to open a review and in all honesty the movie is not all bad. The story pits Holmes and Watson against Professor Moriarty played wonderfully by Jared Harris. Moriarty is a man of great power and is involved in all sorts of criminal activity including terrorist bombings, assassinations, and corrupt business dealings. As with most villains of this type, Moriarty has a much bigger plan at work and the story takes Holmes and Watson through numerous twists and turns, some of which make almost no sense, in their efforts to stop their arch-enemy. The best scenes in the film are the one-on-one conversations between Holmes and Moriarty but sadly we don’t get many of them.

The movie has a few genuinely funny moments. When not bogged down with the sometimes bloated screenplay, Downey, Jr.’s kookiness certainly pulls in a few laughs. There are also a couple of more sequences that are quite funny. But there are several attempts at humor that just fall flat and at times feel out-of-place. Some of these attempts feel cheap and I especially grew tired of certain undertones than seem to run throughout the film. It definitely doesn’t maintain the humor of the first picture.

“A Game of Shadows” won’t do anything to endear itself to fans of the classic characters. But it not only takes the characters further and further away from the source material. I thought this version of Holmes and Watson were quite different from what we saw in the first movie. We get glimpses of the wacky relationship from the previous picture but not enough to drive the film. It overextends itself in so many directions that it seems to have forgotten what made the first film so enjoyable.

I liked the first Sherlock Holmes movie. It was fresh, funny, and quite entertaining. This second installment falls well short of the mark and even with it’s occasional laugh and pulse-pounding action sequences, I couldn’t get past the convoluted plot, cheap gags, and off-balanced direction. If they do decide to try for a third film in the franchise, I for one think they should look to another director. For me, Ritchie’s vision has run it’s course and I can’t see myself sitting through another film that offers as little as “A Game of Shadows”.