Thursday, June 16, 2011


Barry Levinson, 1985
Starring: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins

While I have read and continuously re-read the complete works of Conan Doyle, I'll also expand my love to non-Doyle related stories from time to time. For instance, I just finished reading Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, which is an absurd modern reworking of Holmes, where he is addicted to cocaine, has to visit Sigmund Freud and tries to prevent WWI. I suffered through the entirety of Shadows Over Baker Street, the Holmes vs Lovecraft short fiction collection. I collect Holmes adaptations -- there are some good ones with Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, whom I love endlessly, and Jeremy Brett -- and hopefully I will review more of these in the future. Let's face it, Sherlockians are probably the original fan-fic devotees and, as far as I'm concerned, the more the merrier. As long as Holmes isn't boxing with his shirt off.

The title Young Sherlock Holmes pretty much explains exactly what this film has to offer: Holmes and Watson, at school together, solving crimes. It was written by Chris Columbus, who is a genius when it comes to kids' movies. He wrote Gremlins and Goonies and directed the first two Home Alone films, the first two Harry Potter movies, and Mrs. Doubtfire. That alone should be some sort of reassurance. In a lot of ways, Young Sherlock Holmes reminds me of an awkward Harry Potter precursor, down to the actors, the sets, the music, and even loosely, the film's plot. A group of misfits in a British boarding school encounter a mystery than none of the adults believe in, so they band together and use their motley talents to get to the bottom of things. Mostly because they're bored and don't have friends.

Nerdy, kinda chubby, good natured, rational Watson: check
Haughty, well-spoken, brilliant Holmes: check
Violin: check
Deduction: check
Snotty blonde nemesis: check
Stuffy British dialogue: check
Lestrade giving Holmes the brush off: check
Inverness cape: check
Deerstalker hat: check
Fencing: check
Clever nods to trivia only a true Sherlockian would notice: check
Love interest for Holmes: unfortunate check

This film has a wonderful air of fantasy, adventure, and imagination that makes me not want to ruin anything for you. Suffice to say that there is a bizarre, highly fantastical plot that involves an Egyptian religious cult that celebrates rites of mummification, hallucinogenic poison that makes people kill themselves, a shady instructor, and Holmes stringing it all together. There is also a curiously bleak ending that probably never would have made it into production today.

It's available in a cheap single-disc DVD from Paramont, who is clearly trying to hop on the coat-tails of the marketing from the new Robert Downey Jr version. Also, I feel the need to include the review of this film from The reviewer loves it, if possible, even more than I do. Cheerio.

P.S. The film includes some of the first fully developed computer-based special effects in cinema! And thanks to computers, you can watch the whole thing here:

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