Review by Sean Boelman
Millie Bobby Brown is one of the biggest rising stars working today thanks to her popular role in Stranger Things, and her new starring vehicle Enola Holmes proves that she has the ability to carry a film on her own even if the material is less than stellar. A rather dull mystery made enjoyable by her charming performance, this is sure to be a hit with Brown’s young fans but won’t impress those already versed in the tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic sleuth.
The movie follows Sherlock Holmes’s younger sister, who is herself an aspiring detective, as she sets out on a journey to find her missing mother, encountering a conspiracy involving a young Lord along the way. Based on the young adult book series by Nancy Springer, the premise is golden for those who are a bit too young for the darker themes that shape the classic Doyle mysteries, but it lacks the sense of unpredictability to make it enjoyable.
As one would expect, the film explores the struggle of dealing with astronomical expectations placed on one by society. The deconstruction of the patriarchy here is welcome, but it is the portion of the movie that explores Enola’s attempts to make her own way while embracing the image passed down to her by her older brother.
Unfortunately, Jack Thorne’s script seems to be too preoccupied trying to live up to the shadow of the greater stories that inspired it to stand on its own. Enola’s search for her mother is far more compelling than the other investigation she conducts, even if the latter is more action-packed. It would have been nice had this been a comedy-tinged character drama rather than an attempt at a thriller with some decent comedic relief.
The character really comes into her personality over the course of the film, setting up the promise of a more distinctive sequel, but there are some attempts at quirkiness here that don’t exactly pay off. The frequency with which the character breaks the fourth wall stands out as one of the less satisfying gimmicks.
The fact that Brown is able to breathe so much life into a character that is this all over the place is definitely impressive. She definitely has all the makings of a great leading lady, if only she finds a role that isn’t fundamentally tied to her proving herself. The supporting cast is solid, with Henry Cavill making a great Sherlock, but Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, and Adeel Akhtar all feel sadly underused.
It feels like the movie could have used some more stylistic pizzazz. Everything is competently done, and some scenes even look very good, but there is no reason for a youthful take on these tropes to be so devoid of life and energy. A more tongue-in-cheek approach would have been welcome, as this too often feels like just another period piece.
Enola Holmes is serviceable enough to be a night’s entertainment for its teenage target audience, but is unlikely to stick around in anyone’s memory long after the credits roll. Still, even if it isn’t the greatest start for the potential franchise, it goes through the motions well enough that future entries will hopefully be able to have fun with the character.
Enola Holmes streams on Netflix beginning September 23.
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