Young Sherlock Holmes

Movie Information

In Brief: It's too big, too loud, too over-produced. Hey, Barry Levinson made it, Chris Columbus wrote it and Spielberg produced it. What did you expect? Young Sherlock Holmes was largely dismissed in 1985, and, of course, riled up a few Sherlockians (the literary equivalent of comic book fanboys). However, the latter have turned their ire on Guy Ritchie, and may be cutting this version some slack, since the young star, Nicholas Rowe, grew up to play the movie Holmes in the current Mr. Holmes. But really, taken on its own somewhat silly and overblown terms, Young Sherlock Holmes was always a pretty decent fantasy. Seen today, it takes on added interest — especially with Columbus' participation — as being a fairly obvious template for the Harry Potter movies.
Genre: Mystery Fantasy
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins, Susan Fleetwood, Freddie Jones
Rated: PG-13



The likelihood of anyone — except one of those for whom it somehow defines their childhood — making a case that Young Sherlock Holmes is any kind of great film is small. (At least I hope it is, though someone — who grew up wearing out a VHS copy of it — is apt to tell me I “have” to admit it’s “perfect entertainment.”) It is, however, a pleasant time at the movies, if you can overlook some of the overbearing cuteness, its sometime dodgy effects (only Beach Party movies age faster than state-of-the-art special effects), and its pointlessly downbeat ending. In all honesty, it does function as speculative fiction on the origin of some fictional characters — working backwards from how we already perceive them. It is possibly a little more pop culture than literary — having more to do with stage and screen matters Holmesian than the stories themselves.




In truth, the film is more a fantasy horror picture than a detective story. The fact that it probably has as many — if not more — references to old horror movies (everything from The Phantom of the Opera to Mystery of the Wax Museum to The Mummy’s Tomb is jammed into the thing) says much. Oh, sure, young Sherlock gets to pull off some showy deductions, but the central mystery is less mysterious than it’s a fantasticated adventure yarn. And since there’s such a very small pool of suspects, it’s not that hard to guess who’s behind it all. (Of course, Holmes suspected it all along — or so he claims after the fact, at which point it’s pretty hard to be wrong.) Some things are a little awkward — the set up for the villain’s demise is painfully obvious — and other things — Watson’s pastry hallucination — are just plain bad ideas. But all in all, Young Sherlock Holmes is an entertaining trifle.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Young Sherlock Holmes Sunday, Aug. 16, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.