A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that perils in this young-adult Sherlock Holmes drama include threats of the heroine being sacrificially turned into an Egyptian-style mummy, and kids being strangled and run through with swords. There's some potential nightmare imagery for young viewers -- scenes of demonic entities and rotting zombies; it's made clear that these are only hallucinations, but the chills are still vividly rendered. Young Watson tries tobacco smoking.
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What's the story?
In a boys' school in Victorian-era England, two students encounter each other who are destined to be illustrious crimefighting partners in adulthood, the teenage Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas Rowe), who is already a genius at logical deduction, and the pudgy adolescent James Watson. Holmes' braininess is renown among the kids and faculty, but that only makes him an easier target when a resentful classmate frames Holmes for cheating on an exam. Meanwhile, a number of aged London men have been dying under weird circumstances, in hysterics from occultish hallucinations. When this bizarre curse strikes the school's retired headmaster, Holmes sneaks back onto the grounds and prowl's London's dark corners to solve the mystery, with Watson's assistance.
Is it any good?
Young Sherlock Holmes is not an awful movie; it just should have been so much better. The movie came out under the auspices of Steven Spielberg's production company, when other Hollywood directors were signing on to do Spielberg-like fantasies with the finest possible casts, imagination, and special effects. The title alone suggested a can't-miss property -- and yet for all the high hopes, Young Sherlock Holmes unfurls disappointingly, like old Indiana Jones. Yes, there's an elementary change in scenery and accents, but the cliffhanger stunts, cartoonish foreigners, black-magic stuff (all the more inconsequential because we find out it's all delusions), ludicrous temple-of-doom that, just like the Death Star, comes complete with a convenient self-destruct mode -- it doesn't take a you-know-who to deduce it was all swiped from other Lucas-Spielberg 1980s blockbusters.
Scriptwriter Chris Columbus was later to make the first few Harry Potter movies, and the early school scenes (complete with a Draco Malfoy-lookalike antagonist) do have a nice flavor and potential, before the hand-me-down thrill rides and the way-silly revenge scheme at the center of the mystery take over.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of Sherlock Holmes as a boy. How well is it done here? This movie suggests that Holmes' intellect and penchant for crime-solving backfired -- when he busted his own father for some unspecified offense. Is being this brilliant a help or a hindrance for a kid? You might compare Young Sherlock Holmes to other stories that portray youthful mystery-solvers, including the "Encyclopedia Brown" series, and Eye of the Crow, Death in the Air, and other recent YA novels by Shane Peacock that try to depict (in far more depth than this film) the troubled childhood of Conan Doyle's great sleuth.
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