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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 35.09%
Average: 10.53%
Pretty Bad: 15.79%
Total Crap: 1.75%

5 reviews, 27 user ratings

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Young Sherlock Holmes
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by Scott Weinberg

"Half a good movie, half a bad one. As a whole, logically, it's a mess."
3 stars

I have a confession to make: with very few exceptions, I cannot stand the work of filmmaker Chris Columbus.

Based on his early screenplay work for Joe Dante (Gremlins) and Richard Donner (The Goonies), Columbus had all the makings of a fun-time-movie master. But then something strange happened; his following works (Young Sherlock Holme, Heartbreak Hotel, Only the Lonely and Nine Months) could most accurately be described as "banal", while his forays into directing (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Stepmom and Bicentennial Man) were, for the most part, warmed-up family-time pap of the highest order. Logically, they were all big hits at the box office.

And don't even get me started on his Harry Potter movies; they're perfectly safe and watchable, but all I can think about when I see 'em is how brilliant they'd have been had Terry Gilliam directed the pair.

So basically I'm not a big fan. But when the opportunity arose to revisit 1985's Young Sherlock Holmes (a movie I remembered enjoying back when I was 14), I put aside my general disdain for Columbus' work and hoped to have a good time.

And wouldn't you know it? Young Sherlock Holmes is kind of a big, sloppy mess! Sure, it's a visually crisp and occasionally inventive mess, but let's be fair: this flick is one-half Sherlock Holmes gags and one-half outtakes from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Rare is the film so head-smackingly schizophrenic, but Young Sherlock Holmes shifts from Mystery Flick Lite into Silly Egyptian-Themed Action/Adventure so spastically that one gets the impression they're watching two short movies morphed into one.

Either that or Columbus simply ran out of ideas precisely halfway through his screenplay. And it's a shame, too, because the first 30-some minutes of Young Sherlock Holmes offers a winning array of clever character touches and references to Doyle's oft-revisited character. With a concept this effortlessly clever (Holmes and Watson as schoolboys unraveling their first mystery together), one wonders why the movie is so tiringly overladen with unnecessary glitz and silly special effects. (One subplot involving a series of overwrought hallucinations grows grating and tiresome by its second episode.)

So while we have numerous clever nods to Doyle's work (and the countless adaptations), including the first appearance of Holmes' trademark pipe and the tragic reasons behind his lack of romance later in life, these touches are marred and ultimately buried by a loud and excessive series of FX frenzies. One particularly interesting tidbit is that Young Sherlock Holmes includes the very first examples of CGI in a live-action film; they come in the form of an ethereal knight made up of cathedral windows, and yeah, it's pretty cool.

As Holmes and Watson, Nicholas Rowe and Alan Cox acquit themselves quite well, and the pair are supported by a handful of strong supporting performances (Anthony Higgins as the duplicitous Rathe is a notable standout), but by the time Young Sherlock Holmes clangs to a close, the assets of the film are buried beneath an avalanche of unnecessary bells and whistles.

Plus all the Egyptian hoo-hah was trucked in from another movie; I'm absolutely convinced of that.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 05/04/04 13:07:29
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Features Sherlock Holmes For more in the Sherlock Holmes series, click here.

User Comments

12/19/11 skippy mcdermott Complete drivel. Don't waste your time. Spielberg, Columbus, and Levinson should be ASHAMED 1 stars
9/28/11 C.M. Chan Not perfect, but fun. 4 stars
1/24/11 bill norris 1 of my favs as a kid! still pull this out from time to time 4 stars
7/16/10 the dork knight Indiana Jones for dummies. 2 stars
12/25/08 Pav One of my top ten favorites since i saw it 20 years ago. 5 stars
9/06/08 Igor AMAZING!!!! 5 stars
5/21/06 chienne I'm not much of a Holmes fan, but I loved this film. 4 stars
5/06/06 Italo Lenta This is one of favorite films - why all the bad reviews? 5 stars
12/05/05 Marissa This is a great movie for kids! The special effects are just plain awesome! 5 stars
8/02/05 Ric Bland, obvious mystery and mediocre acting. 2 stars
5/10/05 David Fowler Criminally underrated. Bruce Broughton's incredible score should have won an Oscar. Great! 5 stars
7/20/04 Laura Enrech I liked it a lot, above all how they speak I love their perfect english, its amazing. 5 stars
1/04/04 Vince Excellent - one of my favorites 5 stars
10/22/03 ML This is a wonderful movie that deserves much more acclaim than it got! 5 stars
8/15/03 Romek Amazing Movie-! Has been my fav. since 5th grade 5 stars
6/15/03 Jack Sommersby Thoroughly entertaning, even with its creaky finale. 4 stars
11/22/02 Myra Breckinridge Entertaining introduction to Holmes for new generations 4 stars
10/17/02 Charles Tatum Levinson should hire himself out more often 5 stars
4/03/02 T. Pendleton Simply put, I just love this film. 5 stars
3/14/02 A. Wallace If you are a huge Sherlock Holmes fan you will want to see this film 4 stars
11/20/01 Sara My favorite guilty pleasure... I love this movie. 5 stars
9/08/01 The Love of Three Mangoes I love this film - great score, characters, plot, cinematography. Well worth your time. 5 stars
5/28/01 Sarah This is my favorite movie, along with "Almost Famous" and "Billy Elliot." 5 stars
5/13/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) This movie is amazing. I'm ashamed to say how many times I've seen it. 4 stars
11/24/00 Mic Not in any way convincing or captivating after the first half or so. 2 stars
6/07/00 Jackie Benjamin well in the information on the big case but a little vague, but overall it was great 4 stars
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  02-Dec-1985 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Barry Levinson

Written by
  Chris Columbus

  Nicholas Rowe
  Alan Cox
  Sophie Ward
  Anthony Higgins
  Susan Fleetwood
  Nigel Stock

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