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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

Young Sherlock Holmes
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by Marc Kandel

"And The Case of the Criminally Underrated Film"
5 stars

An engaging, stimulating “What-If?” undertaken with skill and care, “Young Sherlock Holmes” warrants the highest recommendation for both longtime Holmes fans, future readers of the great detective and anyone hungry for a satisfying adventure film.

The schoolboys dine at the long wood table in the dim hall, speaking in hushed tones lest they earn the ire of the nearby professors’ table. The topic is “What will you be when you grow up?” The answers share certain commonalities; all highly respected professions, all profitable, most a family business. The new boy, Watson, barely a day at school having stumbled through the door in the middle of the term, his pudgy frame emphasizing worn, secondhand country-boy’s clothes, eagerly offers his answer: “I want to be a doctor”. “Nobody aawhsked you,” hisses Dudley, the thin-lipped resident alpha, tasked with reminding this bumpkin neophyte his place in the delicate yet unforgiving teenage social structure. Watson properly ostracized, Dudley turns to the other outsider at the table, albeit one who still garners grudging respect, in part due to his apathy at whether there is a place for him in their high-walled teen pantheon or not. “What about you Holmes? What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The tall, skinny but not gaunt young man barely has regard for his soup, much less his classmates. He appears to be considering several things at once, none of them being the dinner topic. Nevertheless, the question is answered without even a moment’s consideration. The boy speaks softly but sure: “I never want to be alone.”

These are the moments in Young Sherlock Holmes that make all the difference, lending grace and gravitas amid references to our knowledge of the adult Holmes, attention-grabbing effects (packing a punch even in the CGI age, begat by Industrial Light & Magic in this very film), superbly choreographed action sequences, generous humor, and genuine intrigue that wins Young Sherlock Holmes a place amongst my favorite adventures, filled with mystery, wonder and exemplary character study that honors the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (whimsically contradicting the canon of Holmes’ and Watson’s first meeting in “A Study in Scarlet”) and the legend of Sherlock Holmes.

The Plot: Upon arriving for boarding school in London, shy, bookish John Watson makes fast friends with the deductively formidable, prideful yet untested Sherlock Holmes. When Holmes’ mentor dies under odd circumstances unsatisfactorily labeled ‘suicide’ by the dismissive Scotland Yard investigator (not yet Inspector) LeStrade, the pair quickly embroiled in a seemingly supernatural murder conspiracy with terrifying consequences for all involved, should the two intrepid boys fail to solve the case.

Screenwriter Chris Columbus, Director Barry Levinson and actor Nicholas Rowe respectively posit, stage, and perform the formative events of a man wholly dedicated to the art of deduction and rigid pursuit of justice while subduing emotion, sentiment and social interaction. Rowe’s Holmes is kind and contemplative with a good dollop of arrogance, not as cold as his literary counterpart but he’s not asked to be; this is a Sherlock Holmes with more than a few hard lessons left to learn, and Rowe adeptly balances the focused intellect and staggering deductive brilliance with youthful exuberance and hazardous overconfidence.

Alan Cox portrays a hapless but good-hearted, loyal Watson who pairs well with Rowe's Holmes, going further than comic relief to forge a believeable friendship. Anthony Higgins mesmerizes as Professor Rathe, an intense but charming teacher who has great respect and affection for Holmes, seeing something of a kindred spirit in him, though continually admonishing the boy that his emotions will be his undoing. Bruce Boughton’s brilliant orchestral score merits mention, creating a spirited period mood beset by ancient, powerful evil.

Chris Columbus has taken a fair share of lumps from our critics but here we have Columbus at the top of his writing game, the man who scripted two of the most beloved films of the 1980’s (Gremlins and Goonies if you must know). Knowing that Columbus wore the director’s hat for the first two Harry Potter films, I’d steer you to this gem as a primer for that particular world. When I think of certain aspects of the Harry Potter series, I remember Young Sherlock Holmes. There are more than a few parallels; all of them subtle, none that make either idea shine any less brightly, but worth pointing out if you’ll keep an eye open for them.

Taking on a beloved literary character is a tricky business. "Young Sherlock Holmes" delivers the goods weaving elements of a good Holmes yarn with big budget visual extravagance, imbuing the entire work with a great sense of fun.

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originally posted: 02/19/10 15:25:02
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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, it´s 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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