Young Sherlock Holmes
Length: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio: DD 5.1English, English Surround, French Mono
S.R.P. $19.99 USD
So, what happens when you take an Indiana Jones style adventure and mix it up with Sherlock Holmes, and wind the clock back to Holmes’ teenage boarding school years in Victorian England? You get Young Sherlock Holmes, an interesting marriage of genres which predates Harry Potter, and arrives at the same time as The Goonies, but shares many of the same qualities of each. There are a couple of common threads among all of these titles... Spielberg was involved with Indiana Jones (director), The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes (producer). Chris Columbus wrote The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes, and would go on to direct two Harry Potter films. It’s no surprise, then, that they all have the same “feel.” In fact, Young Sherlock Holmes displays more influence from Spielberg and Columbus than from director Barry Levinson.
Purists of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories may not be so forgiving of the liberties taken with the characters in this film (for one, Holmes and Watson first met as adults in a hospital laboratory, not as teens in a boarding school), but I don’t mind. After all, it’s all in fun. A message before the end credits makes this point, as well. Lock the original stories safely away and let this film stand on it’s own merits. This is definitely not canon. Deal with it. I think many critics were sucked into this trap, and weren’t able to enjoy the film for what it is.
Of course, there are things to complain about, outside of the liberties taken with the characters. The plot is really kind of silly, and is more in keeping with modern adventure fare like The Goonies and Indiana Jones than it is with Victorian Era sleuthing pictures.
The basic gist of the plot is, just as Watson shows up at school and meets Sherlock Holmes, there begin a strange series of deaths near the campus in London. It seems that these people suddenly start hallucinating, and end up contributing to their own deaths. Holmes, of course, is the only one who can see a connection in the deaths, and he tries to convince the local police that there is foul play involved. As things advance, someone close to Holmes becomes among those killed, and it is then discovered there is a connection between all who have died. Holmes and Watson investigate.
This is where it gets weird(er). It seems there is an Egyptian cult that holds sacrificial ceremonies in a huge, underground, pyramid shaped temple. Connections surface between the cult, those who have been murdered, and members of the staff and faculty at the school.
For those who haven’t seen this film, I’ll stop here for fear of giving things away (though most things here, weird as they are, are not too hard to figure out as you’re watching).
Some of the more interesting parts of the film are the hallucinations. We get to see through the characters eyes as they hallucinate. This provides ample opportunity for some visual effects work from ILM, and a sequence that was perhaps the first major exposure for Pixar (The glass man sequence, though dated now, is a memorable scene).
Young Sherlock Holmes comes to you in anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 widescreen. The picture is bright, with good contrast, solid black levels, and decent shadow detail. The colors are slightly muted, but are accurate. Fine grain from the original elements can be seen, and there are some occasional dust spots visible on the print. The picture is a touch on the soft side, but is still adequately sharp. Overall, a nice transfer of a catalog title.
The soundtrack is English Dolby Digital 5.1, with an English Surround and a French Mono track also available. The 5.1 track is clean and full, with dialog always clear and intelligible. The music sounds good, filling the front soundstage and bleeding a bit into the rears. The surround is non-agressive, but does provide some punch in the few action scenes - though not to the extent you would find with a more recent title. LFE is similarly non-agressive. This mix is what we’ve all come to expect from 1980’s catalog titles... it provides a reasonably enveloping surround experience, but nothing to write home about, by today’s standards.
There are no special features.
It would have been nice to see a trailer, and perhaps a featurette on Pixar’s groundbreaking (at the time) CGI. I still remember the first time I saw the glass man sequence in theaters... I was mesmerized. You just have to know that John Lasseter would have been able to narrate a nice featurette on the making of that sequence.
Oh well... it’s still nice to have the feature on DVD.
Is this a great film? Certainly not. It will be a disappointment to those going in to it expecting a Sherlock Holmes mystery. It is, however, a lot of fun for what it is. Stay tuned through the end credits for an important coda to the film.
While some extras would have been nice, Paramount has provided a nice transfer of this catalog title.