Young Sherlock Holmes Movie Review

Want to see the origins of the Harry Potter movies? Check out Barry Levinson's enchanting Young Sherlock Holmes, believe it or not.

Written by Chris Columbus (who'd later go on to direct the first two Potters), our titular hero (Nicholas Rowe) displays incredible intelligence and wit as he muddles his way through a private, British institution of learning. With his pals -- a goofy kid named Watson (Alan Cox) and a curly-haired girl (Sophie Ward) -- Holmes gets into trouble and finds his way into a giant mystery that threatens the whole world. When he uncovers the villain, it's someone much closer than he'd ever imagined.

There you have it. The exact setup of every Harry Potter story, only with a peculiar character from historical fiction instead of a present-day boy wizard.

It's the Holmes business that probably turns off the film's detractors, but even people with a passing interest in Arthur Conan Doyle's mysteries will enjoy the fanciful origins of Holmes' cap, pipe, and "Elementary!" motto (though of course the movie is all out of Columbus's head, not from Doyle's books). The film conjectures the meeting not only of Watson but of Moriarty, Sherlock's nemesis as well.

Of peripheral interest is a scene in which a delusional Holmes does battle with a knight that emerges from a stained glass window. Today it doesn't look like much, but in 1985 it was the first fully-CGI character ever to appear on film. If nothing else, Young Sherlock Holmes is an important movie for history's sake.

Unfortunately the Big Plot that consumes the latter half of the film doesn't really satisfy -- feeling much like the voodoo shenanigans of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which was released a year earlier, only sillier. (Does no one notice all these bald cultists living in 1800s London? Okay, so they were wearing wigs... does no one notice a spike in wig sales in 1800s London?) The movie is narrated by an older Watson, in voice-over, which is terribly dull and preachy. And in the end, the film breaks a cardinal rule by killing a critical character with whom we've become enamored. Boo.

Oh well. Holmes is great fun, quite family friendly despite the PG-13 rating, and definitely worth a better reception than it's received over the years.


Young Sherlock Holmes Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG-13, 1985


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