Did you know Sherlock Holmes had a little sister? And that she looks a lot like a young Natalie Portman? I didn’t! Well, thanks to Netflix, now you do with this new movie about the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Younger and Equally Smarter Sister, Enola Holmes.
Be prepared for a novelty; a family movie that’s a fun & whimsical tale for tweens with a mystery to be solved, has no bad language, and has three Harry Potter alumni thrown in for good measure! Teenager Enola Holmes (Mille Bobby Brown) narrates and breaks the fourth wall as she talks directly to you, the audience, throughout the entire movie, even asking “what would you do?” at one point! This outspoken, whirling dervish of a girl was brought up by her fiercely independent mother, Eudoria Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter) after their father died.
Taught martial arts, archery, mathematics, chess, and science, Enola’s two older brothers, staunch Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and genius Sherlock (Henry Cavill) are appalled by her not being “prim and proper”, as befitting a young lady of the 1800’s. Things go south as their mum goes missing one day and, as the boys are rather lackadaisical about it, Enola finds clues to her possible disappearance and whereabouts. Armed with her passion and vibrate wit, she takes off for London, but meets a runaway boy on her travels. It’s the young teen Viscount Lord Tewksbury, Marquess of Basilwhether (Louis Partridge) who takes a shine to Enola right away.
But the two must part ways as Enola is on a quest to find her mom and diversions are a distraction. Once in town, she gets into a disguise as a proper young lady and finds more clues to her mother’s whereabouts, including a secret martial arts studio for women run by Edith (Susie Wokoma) and a hidden fireworks and bomb warehouse. Oh, dear! What has mommy been up to? After avoiding assassins and the law, Enola is captured by Mycroft and forced to attend Miss Harrisons School For Girls, run by the uber-proper Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw).
But staying there isn’t going to stop this ace detective and, with the unexpected help of Lord Tewksbury, they escape for more adventures and deadly hijinks together. Based on Nancy Springer’s books, The Enola Holmes Mysteries, this movie really should be a Netflix series for kids. It has all the earmarks for wild adventures, mysteries to be solved, and a plucky girl detective who talks to you directly that makes this such a delight to watch. Plus, it has a noted history of the world’s most famous detective as her brother that helps Enola out and cares for her.
Jack Thorne knows about adapting books into series since he just did the fantastic HBO’s His Dark Materials. He didn’t screw with the premise and make it “more adult’, instead keeping it kid-friendly, which is remarkable in this day and age; having Enola be a positive role model for teenage girls. Major kudos to Thorne for that! The screenplay is simple, fresh, smart, and has a great deal of humor, especially with Enola’s many asides to the audience. And Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown nails this role with amazing ease, matching her acting against a wonderful Cavill and Carter. And her chemistry with Partridge is heart-warming and perfect.
If you’re asking why all the fourth-wall-breaking, it’s directed by Harry Bradbeer, the director of Amazon’s Fleabag, the streaming show that showcases that practice. This was to be his first theatrical release, but it’s another Covid casualty. His direction is crisp, calculating, and shows his deft hand from directing all his numerous TV shows. It’s not often you find such a rare gem in the Netflix movie library that is okay for your kids to watch, but I certainly recommend this one.
** Currently streaming on Netflix
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)
During the filming of Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks not only encouraged Gene Wilder to get his script about Sherlock Holmes on the screen, but to direct it, too! Taking the masters advice, he asked his co-stars, Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn, if they’d like to be in his very first written & directed movie. The rest, as they say, is history.
Based very loosely on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s deerstalker-capped sleuth, this wildly funny story is not about him, but about Sherlock’s younger other brother. No, not Mycroft, but Sigerson (Wilder). It’s 1891, and the games afoot in England! A precious document from Queen Victoria has been stolen from Lord Redcliff’s (John LeMesuiere) safe one night and instead of taking on the case, Holmes & Watson delegates it to his younger brother, Sigerson, who really hates him. He even calls him ‘Sheer Luck’ instead of Sherlock.
Anyway, Sherlock passes the message along with bespectacled Orville Sacker (Feldman), a man with an eidetic memory, who happens to be a fan of Sigerson’s work. Soon they both meet a woman named Bessie Bellwood (Kahn), but Holmes knows she’s a habitual liar and she reveals herself to be opera singer Jenny Hill, who’s being blackmailed. But little do they know that an assassin finds this out and reports it to sinister Professor Moriarty (Leo McKern)
After saving Hill’s life–twice–Sigerson fumes that his brother got all the credit in the newspaper. Interrogating Hill, Sigerson uses an unconventional method of seduction to find out that SHE stole the document from Lord Redcliff, who happens to be her father! But, being she’s a habitual liar, is she telling the truth? More clues lead to opera singer Eduardo Gambetti (Dom DeLuise), who has made a deal with Moriarty to sell him the document on stage during his opera.
Sigerson and Sacker infiltrate the opera, posing as singers, and chaos ensues. Cue the chase scene, sword fights, and the inevitable twisty ending that comes with all Sherlock Holmes’ stories. Wilder, a noted comedian and actor in his own right, proved the man could write and direct as well. The story was a little disjointed and askew, true, but for a first-timer, it was damn funny and directed well. Wilder didn’t stop either, as he went on to write & direct others (The World’s Greatest Lover, The Woman in Red, and Haunted Honeymoon, to name a few).
Okay, so many of his later films weren’t exactly blockbusters, in fact, some of them were box office bombs, but his first one was the best. This movie is a fresh and comedic take on the whole Sherlock Holmes genre, seen through the eyes of his jealous brother, something that hadn’t been done before. For fun, check out Wilder’s swordplay in the movie. In real life, he was a fencing champion in theater school and knew how to handle a blade.