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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sherlock Jr. is a wonderful introduction to silent films for kids, though there is some reading involved, which makes it less appealing for very young kids. At 44 minutes, the story flies by with plenty of action, including chase scenes with some gunfire and a funny runaway moped scene where Sherlock doesn't know his driver fell off miles and miles back. In the quieter moments there's a bit of romance with a couple kisses and a lesson about truth willing out, but for the most part the story moves quickly and is full of surprises to keep young viewers' attention.
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What's the story?
In SHERLOCK JR., a humble projectionist visiting his girlfriend is framed by another suitor for a stolen pocket watch. Unfortunately the detective how-to manual he reads incessantly is no help as he's thrown out on the street. Back at the movie theater he falls asleep on the job and dreams himself into the on-screen movie and the role of Sherlock Holmes. As Sherlock, he's onto the jewel thieves right under his nose and cleverly spoils their nefarious plots against him. Meanwhile the projectionist's girlfriend does her own sleuthing to try to clear his name.
Is it any good?
Even viewers who normally don't seek out silent movies or classics in general are in for a treat. Sherlock Jr. is clever, charming, inventive, and full of surprises. There's so much packed into 44 minutes, it's hard to believe that there's a movie within a movie and a love story and a frame-up and it all ties together and makes perfect sense with just the occasional pithy caption.
The runaway moped scene had to take so much planning and careful direction. To say nothing of the effort it must have taken to make Keaton's dream-self rise up from the sleeping projectionist and climb into the movie on the screen below -- look Ma, no CGI. This is creative filmmaking at its finest.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about silent movies. What did you expect going in? Were any parts of Sherlock Jr. surprising? Did you ever forget you were watching a silent film and just get into the story?
Families can also talk about technology and filmmaking. Buster Keaton didn't have any of the tools we have today and still managed to make the action exciting. Do you think not relying on technology somehow made this filmmaker more inventive? Or do you think he was limited by the lack of CGI and other effects common today?
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