Plans to give legendary detective Sherlock Holmes a gay twist have been attacked by a film critic who said it could turn audiences off.

Director Guy Ritchie’s version will see Holmes and Dr Watson sharing a bed and wrestling. Ritchie has not said the characters will be gay, but there is likely to be plenty of homoerotic tension.

The film, based on the detective stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, features Robert Downey Jr as the famous detective and Jude Law as his sidekick, Dr Watson.

Former New York Post film critic Michael Medved told the newspaper: “There’s not a seething, bubbling hunger to see straight stars impersonating homosexuals. I think they’re just trying to generate controversy.”

Medved, who is a self-proclaimed conservative and famous for adding a family suitability rating to his film reviews, added: “They know that making Holmes and Watson homosexual will take away two-thirds of their box office. Who is going to want to see Downey Jr and Law make out? I don’t think it would be appealing to women. Straight men don’t want to see it.”

However, Jason Starr, a New York-based thriller writer, defended the move. He said: “This sounds like exactly the type of updating the series needs to attract a new generation. Playing up the homoerotic undercurrents in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ worked rather well. If Conan Doyle was writing today, he would have been much more provocative with the characters.”

Downey Jr revealed the new twist in an interview with the News of the World in February.

He said the pair will have lots of sweaty grappling scenes.

“We’re two men who happen to be roommates, wrestle a lot and share a bed. It’s bad-ass. Guy [Ritchie] wanted to make this about the relationship between Watson and Holmes. They’re both mean and complicated,” he said.

The film is set to be released on Boxing Day.