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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Movie Poster Image
Master sleuth returns in entertaining but violent adventure.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 129 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 54 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

There's lots of iffy stuff going on here, but Holmes and Watson's friendship is a powerful example of loyalty. Also, Holmes continues to remind audiences to pay attention to even the smallest of details because the answers to our questions, big and small, lie in them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Holmes' sharp mind continues to be admirable, his eccentricities notwithstanding. And Watson remains straightforward and forthright. The friends always fight for good, even if their methods are sometimes iffy. Watson's wife, Mary, has a bigger role in this film, proving herself equal to the task of crime-fighting.


The film is filled with highly choreographed fights and lots of other action violence. Bare hands, brass knuckles, poison arrows, knives, guns, bombs -- you name it, it's here. Holmes is also tortured in one scene, and there's a suicide. Some scenes are almost balletic because of how directed and maneuvered they are, but they're still bone-crunching and (sometimes) bloody -- and the slow-mo shots can sometimes make the anticipation of the impact even worse.


Lots of innuendo (much of which is likely to go over younger kids' head) and suggestive banter, flirting, and a kiss. In a scene that's intended to be comic, a man is shown naked from behind as he casually exposes himself to a woman. 


Swearing includes "damn," "hell," "bastard," and "my God" (as an exclamation).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man smokes a pipe (accurate for the era). References to how one character is hopped up on coca leaves. Social drinking -- Holmes likes his liquor.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, like its predecessor, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is an entertaining  adventure filled with several scenes of action violence and mayhem. Though the fight scenes are very choreographed and stylized, they're bone-crunching and often brutal. And the slo-mo effects sometimes make the anticipation of the impact almost worse than the impact itself. Knives, guns, and bombs are all in use; there's also one scene of torture and a suicide. There's also a fair bit of innuendo, one scene of a naked man from behind, some mild language ("bastard" and "damn), pipe smoking, and social drinking. Holmes (again played by Robert Downey Jr.) dons women's clothing in one sequence.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRobbyWBoy16 January 2, 2012

Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game Of Shadow

Better than the first one, unlike the first it wasnt boring, it was fun
Adult Written byparent forum December 20, 2011

Good Teen/Adult film

Lots of violence and drinking, saloons/bar scenes. But good messages of loyalty, good vs. evil and right winning out. Lots of humor. Heavy at times, especially... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byJKB97 January 2, 2012

Still quite violent, lacks storyline but just what you'd expect from a 12A rated film

Guy Ritchie's take on the Sir Conan Doyle's classic is an action-packed thriller. I enjoyed the first film and love the slow-motion action sequences.... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bydavyborn December 18, 2011

Sloppy sequel is still fun, still very violent

Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows, just debuted into theaters on Friday, and already it looks like it could be yet another one of those big box office disappoin... Continue reading

What's the story?

In SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS, the world has gone mad. Bombs are going off in Strasbourg and Vienna, an American mogul has dropped dead, and a prince has committed suicide. The events may seem random, a cacophony of chaos. But as the intrepid and eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) soon discovers, there's a brilliant and masterful villain on the loose: Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). And he's not just after power and wealth: He's after Holmes. He's also gunning for Holmes' right-hand man, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), who's just gotten married but may not be quite retired from sleuthing.

Is it any good?

How can this franchise not be entertaining with the talented Robert Downey Jr. playing a historically fascinating lead (and Law as a gutsy Watson)? Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows even looks entertaining: The tableau is drained of color, etched in charcoal, but still very stylized, which fits director Guy Ritchie's signature. He's assured another hit.

But is it great? Perhaps expectations are raised too high, but it feels like the bloom of the movie's specific visual and storytelling style is fading a bit. Ritchie's swift deconstruction of Holmes' thought process seem wasted on what-if situations instead of on actual detective work. And, yes, the bromance between Holmes and Watson is charming, but it's clear when Holmes faces Moriarty that the movie hungers for more of that type of confrontation. It's an iconic match-up, and it's too bad we don't spend much time with it and Holmes' other misadventures. Let the master detective detect!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the new Sherlock Holmes movies' take on the famous detective compares to previous ones. Why do you think the filmmakers of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows decided to up the action and violence in these films?

  • Why does Watson put up with Holmes' shenanigans, especially when they interfere with his relationship to his betrothed?

  • How does this film handle its good-versus-evil theme? Are the good and bad sides always clearly defined? Is that important?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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