Ready your sedatives, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans, because Enola Holmes features the most inappropriate casting of Sherlock Holmes that I can possibly imagine- just how grossly wrong is Henry Cavill as the consulting detective? He’s standing there like he’s still wearing his Superman outfit under all that Victorian garb, ready to leap out of a window or into a telephone booth (good luck with that in Victorian London) at any moment. Its really quite a pity they didn’t have him wearing the deerstalker hat, that would have been absolutely hilarious. I have to confess to feeling some sympathy for Cavill, he’s a good actor (I remember his early days, when he was one of the best things in the ridiculous romp The Tudors, some years ago) but he’s physically such an imposing figure now… I always think he’s too big even as Superman (and his Clark Kent always prompts a titter, the meek unassuming ace reporter sports such a man-mountain physique) so whenever he is cast as an ordinary joe it doesn’t work. I imagine its a casting problem that might haunt him for years to come, until he at least leaves the DC hero behind and maybe bulks down a little. Becomes a little more ordinary. I appreciate Sherlock Holmes is hardly ordinary himself, its an extraordinary character, but he’s surely not such a muscle-bound brute or clean-cut, decent guy as Cavill appears- Holmes is a master of disguise, its just as well Cavill doesn’t have to demonstrate such a talent in this film (“My Goodness, Holmes, I would never have guessed it was you posing as that emaciated tramp in the street!”).
So moving away from that most inappropriate piece of casting, how is Enola Holmes? Its pretty good nonsense, really, for what it is. Based on the first of a series of books, The Enola Holmes Mysteries, written by Nancy Springer, the film was apparently something of a pet project for actress Millie Bobby Brown who co-produced the film as well as stars in the title role. I thought it was a Netflix original, but I’ve since read that it was a Warner Bros movie intended for theatrical release which was later purchased by Netflix because of release issues caused by the Covid pandemic. I think this rather saves the film- Netflix seems the perfect home for fluff such as this, and I can imagine a teenage-targeted, family friendly film such as this might certainly get a bigger immediate audience than had this been released in cinemas.
Millie Bobby Brown is quite brilliant as the title character, and her relationship with the camera is at times quite extraordinary, especially when she almost breaks character mid-scene to break the fourth wall and share something with the audience. Its a really endearing performance and lifts the film from its rather formulaic, albeit endearingly escapist, roots. Enola Holmes is fun, albeit one of those typical Hollywood projects that seems to think it deserves an A-list cast that leaves one expecting something more than it is really is, or likely even intends to be.
It will be interesting to see, if this is really successful on Netflix, where the future lies for what is evidently intended to be a franchise. Will they try to take a second film back to cinemas, or will they tone down the budget and scale (this being Netflix of course, they may not need to) and bring any future instalments direct to the streaming giant? Is it, indeed, another indication of the seismic shift away from theatrical distribution and towards home streaming etc?
So anyway, harmless fun. Except for hardcore fans of the consulting detective, who may be horrified by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters going all, er, Harry Potter, but hey, that’s Public Domain for you…