MOVIE "Enola Holmes"
WHEN|WHERE Starts streaming Wednesday on Netflix.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT The young adult "Enola Holmes Mysteries" fiction series gets a cinematic adaptation starring Millie Bobby Brown as Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes' teenage sister, a budding detective in her own right.
It's the best non-"Stranger Things" role yet for the star, who appears to relish the opportunity to romp through this Victorian-era mystery as the title character, investigating the disappearance of the Holmes matriarch Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter).
"Enola Holmes" co-stars Henry Cavill as Sherlock and Sam Claflin as Mycroft. It's directed by Harry Bradbeer ("Fleabag"), written by the prolific screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne (HBO's "His Dark Materials" adaptation, among many others) and begins streaming on Netflix on Wednesday.
MY SAY It's easy to regard a production that is this polished with some suspicion. It's lavish, crafted with an impeccable eye for rich production design, and everything about it seems to be so pristine that you start to wonder what's really going on.
"Enola Holmes" is imbued with a positive message about the power and importance of using your wits to positive ends, outsmarting grown-ups and stopping evildoers in their paths.
The movie has fun action set pieces in places like speeding trains, a heavy dose of Enola backing up her brainpower with some brawn and enough sweeping imagery to offer a real and tangible sense of this particular late-19th century time and place that has so enlivened the literary imagination for so long.
It avoids the terrible mistakes of the Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey Jr. "Sherlock Holmes" franchise by retaining a degree of realism in terms of the setting and characters, rather than rendering their world as hyperkinetic mush.
The star is as charismatic and charming as ever and she's buffeted by a supporting cast that also includes the always first-rate Fiona Shaw.
Brown even shines during the dreaded asides to the camera that may have worked wonders in "Fleabag," where they were brilliantly incorporated into the essence of the protagonist, but serve as a mere nuisance here.
Screenwriters would do well to really cut down on this overused device, which almost never adds anything essential. There's far too much of it here and it serves to rip the viewer straight out of the story each and every time it's utilized.
But that's just a minor complaint, of course, in the grand scheme of things.
The larger issue here is that everything is just too perfect. "Enola Holmes" is so carefully assembled, hitting all the requisite bases and adopting such a persistent aura of spunky intelligence that the movie starts to suffocate. It could use a little hint of something ragged or sharply angled, rather than the persistent straight and narrow.
There's no spontaneity and nothing surprises; the mystery at hand is rote and underwritten, and the limitations of the genre prevent the story from going to as dark of a place as it might have in unpacking the conspiracy at its center.
Bradbeer struggles to bring to the movie that sense of vitality that must accompany a picture-perfect aesthetic to really justify the commitment of two hours in the life of a viewer with endless entertainment choices.
BOTTOM LINE "Enola Holmes" is an ideal work for its target audience, with its positive and affirmational message and the considerable charm of its star. It has plenty of merits. But there's not enough going on below the surface to make it truly worthwhile for anyone else.