“Enola Holmes” is based on a relatively new book series featuring Sherlock’s younger sister. No, she does not appear in any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic works. And this is not a Sherlock-dominated story in which he helps his sis get into the detective business by taking her under his wing. Nor is this a direct spinoff of the Robert Downey, Jr. films or Benedict Cumberbatch TV series.
“Enola Holmes” creates its own Holmes-ian universe, with its own tone and target audience. And the title heroine is front and center. 16-year-old Millie Bobby Brown (“Stranger Things”) plays the 16-year-old title character. Age appropriate casting — how refreshing! If she and sister Paige hadn’t jumped onto this project early as producers, chances are a mid-20s actress would’ve been cast to play the teen.
Brown is fantastic. She has an infectious spirit and abundant energy. Enola is basically a late 19th Century Wonder Woman — a heroine unafraid to battle evil and inspire others. Brown also narrates the story. Early and often she speaks directly to us (breaking the fourth wall). Often this technique is misused. But here it works. Enola not only tells us why she’s doing certain thing, how she’s feeling in certain situations. At times it’s a simple facial expression. Brown’s very good at playing to the camera. She never crosses the line into annoying or campy territory. It’s all part of the light-hearted tone of director Harry Bradbeer’s family-friendly creation.
Remember Downey, Jr.’s stunning 2010 Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical Golden Globe win for “Sherlock Holmes”? Well, don’t be surprised if Brown snags a nomination from the Hollywood Foreign Press members this awards season.
But, it’s the 10 to 16-year-old girls who love Brown on “Stranger Things” who will enjoy “Enola Holmes” the most. This sweeping adventure is heavier on romance and female empowerment than mystery. Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and older brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin) are supporting players. All three Holmes do have cases to solve, including the disappearance of their mother (Helena Bonham Carter). But don’t expect any big reveals or “aha!” moments. The script is all rather elementary.
Well, except for one puzzling element. And it occurs right at the very end. A major plot driving force is not definitively resolved. Several scenes may have been cut to keep the runtime at 2:03 (which is still too long).
“Enola Holmes”, like every other Holmes property, could very well become a franchise. Brown is young and there are several other books in the series. And if that’s the case, hopefully Cavill loosens-up a little bit in future installments.
But again, this is Enola’s world. He — and we — are just along for the fun ride.
LCJ GRADE: B-
Running Time: 123 min.