- Enola Holmes
- Directed by Harry Bradbeer
- Written by Jack Thorne, based on the novel by Nancy Springer
- Starring Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill and Helena Bonham Carter
- Classification PG; 123 minutes
If every generation gets the Sherlock that it deserves, then the young girls and boys currently binging Netflix while they’re supposed to be engaging in remote learning are well-served by this, the latest Holmes tale to move from the public domain to the iPads of the Western world. Based on the young-adult series by author Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes is an energetic, good-natured, well-cast but just a wee-bit-exhausting adaptation that should inspire and entertain younger audiences, if only long enough to give their parents a much-needed break from the Case of the Stressed-Out Caregiver.
It wouldn’t work nearly as well, though, if Netflix hadn’t landed one of the streaming giant’s in-house talents to play the lead. As the titular sleuth, younger sister to the stoic Sherlock and the prickly Mycroft, Millie Bobby Brown twists her Stranger Things mystique into an affable kid-detective charm. The actor both leans into the obsessive, take-no-guff nature of her heroine and offers several (sometimes literal) winks to the audience that this fanciful crime-solving is all a bit silly and sloppily executed.
After her mother (Helena Bonham Carter, also far above the material) goes missing, Enola embarks on a journey of familial tribulations and massive political ramifications. As far as Holmes assignments go, the central mystery in Jack Thorne’s script is feather-light and easily predictable – the brighter children in the household might solve it by the half-hour mark – but there is a compelling progressive societal subtext in Enola’s crusade. Or I should say “text,” as one character underlines the stakes bluntly midway: “Because you don’t know what it is to be without power, you have no interest in changing a world that suits you so well.”
Executed with more energy than either of Guy Ritchie’s recent blockbusters, and with Henry Cavill acting as a more suave Sherlock than Robert Downey Jr., director Harry Bradbeer’s adventure is a perfectly fine piece of Holmes-ian content, if not a work of actual, you know, cinema. But it is also not nearly as entertaining or intriguing as the lawsuit that the Conan Doyle Estate filed against Netflix this summer, claiming that Enola Holmes violates copyright by depicting Sherlock as “having emotions,” an aspect of the character that apparently doesn’t fall under the public-domain laws pertaining to stories published between 1923 and 1927 (the suit is reportedly continuing). Now there’s a case that not even Enola – or Sherlock, or Mycroft, or Netflix – could wrap a neat little bow on.
Enola Holmes is available to stream on Netflix starting Sept. 23
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