I like Sherlock Jr. best because of the clever way in which it satirizes detective movies of the era by employing Keaton's phony detective as the "real" thing in the film he's snuck into. It's every movie buff's dream, after all, to take over the lead role in this exercise in suspended disbelief we call cinema. The entire movie is basically an elaborate pun on the multiple meanings of the word projecting. Keaton was always stretching the boundaries of literalism to absurdist ends, like brandishing an actual swordfish to fight a swordfish.
The greatest silent film comedian? Most votes might go to Charlie Chaplin, and a few to Harold Lloyd, but if you see Sherlock Jr. at the Michigan the way it should be seen--on the big screen with live organ accompaniment--you might be surprised at how the poker-faced Keaton embodies a bracing bravado. Today the sometimes cloying sentiment of Chaplin might, by contrast, be called "emo," but Keaton--boldly and unapologetically--really rocks.
[Originally published in May, 2011.]