Young Sherlock Holmes review by Mike Long

Following the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T., director Steven Spielberg began to branch out into producing films. Most of these movies were sci-fi/fantasy projects, which attracted high-profile writers and directors. (And presumably, Spielberg would have wanted to direct the movies himself, if he'd had the time.) Some of these films, such as Gremlins and Back to the Future are now considered classics of the genre. But, even Mr. Spielberg can back the wrong horse on occasion, leading to dreadful misfires like Young Sherlock Holmes.

Young Sherlock Holmes is a completely new story which is based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which examines the possibilities of the famous Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson meeting in boyhood. As the film opens, John Watson (Alan Cox) arrives at his new school in London, where he promptly meets the eccentric Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Rowe), a student known for his keen powers of deduction. When one of his mentors at the school is murdered, Holmes decides to investigate, and stumbles upon a treacherous plot involving a cult who worships Egyptian deities. It's now up to the young Holmes and Watson to solve the case and stop a string of murders which has been plaguing London.

Young Sherlock Holmes is one of those movies which can't deliver on the promises of quality implied by the talent involved behind the camera. Director Barry Levinson had just come off of back-to-back successes with Diner and The Natural, while screenwriter Chris Columbus had penned two prior successes for Spielberg and co. with Gremlins and The Goonies. But, sadly, Young Sherlock Holmes doesn't come anywhere near the quality of those films, for several reasons.

First of all, the films pacing is simply too languid. While Levinson has made some good films over the years, perhaps he wasn't the best choice to direct a film which wants to be an action/adventure. However, even for someone known for making good comedies and dramas, the dialogue scenes are boring as well. Secondly, the story is at the same time, both far too shallow (murders/evil cult) and too convoluted (relationships/coincidences). Whereas many Sherlock Holmes stories are known for clever twists and turns, Young Sherlock Holmes has none and the script simply plods ahead. (And the cult it way to similar to a certain one seen in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In fact, according to, the original title for this film was Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear. Hmm...) (And, continuing those Temple of Doom comparisons, this PG-13 rated film contains several harrowing special effects which A) look very dated today, and B) add little to the story.) However, one of the film's biggest flaws may lie in the casting. Nicholas Rowe may be believable as a British school-boy, but I don't buy him as a younger version of the world's greatest detective. His droopy eyes hint of narcolepsy and show no indication of wit. (In truth, he looks just like Julian Lennon.) He brings little energy to the role and it's difficult for the audience to get excited about his detecting. The only part of Young Sherlock Holmes which remains impressive today is the stained-glass knight. I'm a sucker for stories in which established fictional characters are given new roles, and the ideas in Young Sherlock Holmes are clever, but the film is boring and never gets beyond being very, very elementary.

Young Sherlock Holmes sleuths its way onto DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is clear, but the film looks worn and old. There is noticeable grain throughout and there are many small, but visible defects from the source material, such as minor scratches and black spots. And even thought the film is set in a wintry, dreary version of London, the colors look slightly washed out. There are slight moments of artifacting on the transfer, but these are overshadowed by the more obvious problems. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue, and some impressive stereo effects, but there is very little happening in the way of surround sound. And I don't think that the LFE meter got over 1 at any point during the film. The DVD contains no extra features.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

blog comments powered by Disqus