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.