A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that director Guy Ritchie's take on the Sherlock Holmes legend -- which stars Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams -- presents an earthier, brawnier, and glossier version of the famous literary/cinematic detective than most of us are used to ... which is exactly why teens will love it. Gritty, late-1800s London is the movie's backdrop, and there's no shortage of action -- from brutal, slo-mo fistfight scenes (most with blood and broken bones) to gunplay and big explosions. There are also some fairly gory crime scenes (including shots of dead bodies, one with a few wriggling maggots), a brief scene of a naked (aside from a strategically placed pillow) Holmes handcuffed to a bed, references to the dark rituals of occult secret societies, smoking, and drinking. But there's no swearing to speak of, and the movie ultimately celebrates Holmes and Watson's close friendship.
What's the story?
Bloodthirsty British Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) -- who has a penchant for dark, occult rituals -- has turned serial killer, terrorizing late-1800s London. Enter Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s keenly observant detective, and his comrade-in-arms, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), who manage to capture Blackwood and get him thrown behind bars. But after he’s hanged, his body disappears from its crypt; it appears he's risen from the dead to come after Holmes. But with Watson about to get engaged and an old flame (Rachel McAdams) hounding him, what is Holmes to do? Can his deductive powers get him out of this dangerous scrape?
Is it any good?
This is entertaining, elementary fun. Guy Ritchie’s film is ostensibly about a detective, but in this version, it’s also about two buddies who've had a lifetime of adventure, making the friendship between Holmes and Watson seem both believable and relatable. Downey Jr. and Law are entertaining to watch, standing shoulder to shoulder; Law's Watson, in fact, is no sidekick here. Though Downey Jr.’s Holmes is clearly the genius, Watson is no afterthought -- and the film is so much better for that. And yet ...
SHERLOCK HOLMES has the sooty, gritty look and feel of bygone London, and Ritchie, no surprise, brings out the franchise’s pugnacious side. (And make no mistake, it wants to be a franchise -- the movie leaves off where a sequel could handily pick right up.) Yet although we appreciate the shot of adrenaline that the director of far-edgier movies like RocknRolla and Snatch brings to the Holmes legend, Ritchie seems to have decided to film a superhero movie instead. The quick cuts and frequent action sequences are photographed like an 1890s version of Iron Man. And Downey’s 'do (and we may literally be splitting hairs here) feels out of place, as do some of the dialogue and other camerawork.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this movie's take on Sherlock Holmes compares to previous ones. Why do you think the filmmakers decided to up the action and violence? How does that change the impact and appeal of the story?
How does Holmes arrive at his conclusions? Can you really deduct that much information from simple (albeit thorough) observation? Can you think of characters in current TV shows or movies who perform similar deductions?
What makes a good and lasting friendship? Are Holmes and Watson on an even level, or is Watson simply an assistant to Holmes?
- In theaters: December 25, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: March 30, 2010
- Cast: Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Robert Downey Jr.
- Director: Guy Ritchie
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material
For kids who love action and thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.