"...for die-hard Sherlock fans, this is fluff for a young audience..."

Cottony Holmes is a Bit To Elementary

(092620) There seems to be an endless appetite for movies and shows about Sherlock Holmes. He’s a perennial character, with the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle creation offering an intellectual game of sleuthing, merging the thrill of the hunt with room for audience participation. While Sherlock has a part in “Enola Holmes,” the film’s really here to introduce a new sibling full of deductive reasoning, adapting a tale from author Nancy Springer’s YA book series. Attempting to make something appealing for a teen audience, screenwriter Jack Thorne (“Wonder,” “His Dark Materials”) delivers a spunkier take on the family business of solving crimes, with “Enola Holmes” aiming for emotional ties and empowerment glow with this whodunit, which is more of a "whereshego". It’s a different style of caper for Sherlock’s little sister, putting a lot of pressure on star Millie Bobby Brown to carry the charm and the narrative focus of the picture.

Enola (Millie Bobbie Brown) has been raised by her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), taught the ways of independence and intelligence to help make her a mighty force in the world. During a time of political unrest due to the upcoming vote on a reform bill, Eudoria takes the opportunity to disappear on Enola’s 16th birthday, leaving her child confused and fearful of what’s happened to her parent. Returning to the family home is Sherlock (a sleepwalking Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (a hammy Sam Claflin), trying to assess the situation, realizing how out of touch they’ve been with their mother. As her legal guardian, Mycroft wants to put Enola into a finishing school run by Ms. Harrison (Fiona Shaw), trying to make a proper woman out of her. However, Enola has a better plan, escaping to London to hunt for Eudoria, following the clues she left behind. Distracting her is Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge), another young man on the run with family issues, giving Enola someone to protect.

There’s a choice made by the production to have Enola break the fourth wall repeatedly throughout “Enola Holmes.” She’s not always sharing plot information, almost treating the viewer like a trusted confidant, keeping us close as she experiences a highly active and unusual 16th year of life. It’s a little bit “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and something like a Netflix interactive special (don’t worry, she makes the decisions), with Thorne trying to hammer home a level of playfulness to the effort, which keeps the teenager front and center for most of the movie. Enola is depicted as a jumpy personality, but one nurtured by Eudoria, who’s watched her two sons go out into a world created for them, ready to give her only daughter the skills and awareness to get beyond cultural and intellectual restrictions set for women, hoping that a feminist education might supply her with a life she can do something with. It’s not a subtle message (Mycroft openly scoffs at the notion of his sister’s individuality), but an effective one for the target audience, with Enola exposed to self-defense, science, and gamesmanship, especially the playing of letter tiles.

“Enola Holmes” presents its first mystery with Eudoria’s disappearance, leaving (or taken) from the family home in the middle of the night. Enola is shaken but not deterred, and the story follows her efforts to find her parent, discovering clues that lead her to a stash of money to help fund the adventure. While Sherlock and Mycroft arrive to sort matters out as men of society, Enola sneaks away to London, using her mother’s lessons to navigate the “outside world” she’s never experienced. Tewksbury soon enters the picture, with the special young man marked for death by an assassin, forcing Enola into action to protect him. The pair become friendly after a moving train escape and, strangely, “Enola Holmes” switches gears to deal with the boy’s family issues, almost growing tired of Eudoria’s absence during a turbulent time of suffrage to keep up with a cute guy and the potential murderers he lives with.

Director Harry Bradbeer doesn’t take many chances with “Enola Holmes,” giving the feature a “Masterpiece”-style period glow, enjoying accomplished technical achievements. He’s also tasked with keeping up with Brown, who goes noticeably big as Enola, tasked with supporting the spirit of the endeavor. The picture has an issue with length, asking too much of the audience with a two-hour run time, turning mischief into tedium in the film’s second half. There’s also a sense of the familiar as sleuthing business is worked on and period costumes are presented for appreciation, with Enola’s entrance into the family business failing to create much excitement (at least enough to fuel future sequels). “Enola Holmes” has its moments of fun and a heavy but effective message on the perils of female conformity. It’s diverting enough, and gives Brown a boost to cinematic stardom, but for die-hard Sherlock fans, this is fluff for a young audience, not a fascinating new take on the master detective bloodline.

Directed by:   Harry Bradbeer
Written by:    Jack Thorne, based on the novel by Nancy Springer
Starring:    Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter
Released:    092320 on Netflix
Length:    123 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for some violence

ENOLA HOLMES © 2020 EH Productions
Review © 2020 Alternate Reality, Inc.