Movie review: 'Enola Holmes 2' another charming bit of mystery
Netflix has been smart to stay in the "Enola Holmes" business.
After picking up the distribution rights for 2020's "Enola Holmes" — a charming mystery romp based on Nancy Springer's young-adult novel series "The Enola Holmes Mysteries" originally planned for a theatrical release — the streamer now brings us the equally engaging "Enola Holmes 2."
With "Stranger Things" star Millie Bobby Brown returning as the titular young detective — and little sister of the much more famous Sherlock (Henry Cavill) — "Enola Holmes 2" offers all the fourth-wall-breaking fun of the original and is built around a rather interesting and well-architected mystery, one touching on cultural issues.
As Enola tells us more than once during the film, the game is, once again, very much afoot.
Introduced to us as a 16-year-old searching for her delightfully trouble-causing mother, Eudoria Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola reintroduces herself to viewers after we have watched her be chased breathlessly through the streets of London in the new film's opening moments. Soon enough, she is cornered by a pair of cops who pat their nightsticks and brandish a pair of handcuffs as they throw displeasing glances her way.
Looking into the camera, Enola says, "Perhaps I should explain."
She takes this seemingly inconvenient time to remind us of what happened in her first adventure, which involved the young Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge, "About a Dog"), on whom she's still crushing.
Since then, she's started up the Enola Holmes Detective agency — "I was going to join the pantheon of great Victorian detectives," she says, noting she'd also be following in her brother's sizable footsteps — but business has been lacking.
In the process of shuttering the venture, Enola is visited by a young Bessie (Serrana Su-Ling Bliss, "Belfast"), who hires her to find her sister.
Both worked at a matchstick factory, and, as we will come to realize, returning scribe Jack Thorne and story contributor Harry Bradbeer — working at least loosely from the second novel in Springer's series, "The Case of the Left-Handed Lady" — took inspiration from the Match Girls Strike of 1888. (Text at the movie's beginning proclaims "Some of what follows is true," and "Enola Holmes 2" dabbles, successfully, in the hazardously poor treatment of the workers of the day and has something to say about both class and race.)
As Enola follows clues, she runs afoul of important men, including Inspector Lestrade (a returning Adeel Akhtar) and Superintendent Grail (David Thewlis). She is wading into increasingly dangerous waters, causing Sherlock to worry about her — that is once he gets through being annoyed with her after she has helped him to his famous Baker Street address following a night on the job that involved too much wine.
Yes, Sherlock is investigating his own case, one involving government corruption and the funneling of funds to a mysterious figure. Among the many things for which "Enola Holmes 2" should be commended is its clever twist on one of the greatest foes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's enduring sleuth. We shall say no more on the matter.
We will say that, at more than two hours, this sequel overstays its welcome just a smidge.
That is, though, about the only criticism you can lob at another important person returning from the first film: director Harry Bradbeer. With the help of his likewise returning director of photography Giles Nuttgens ("Hell or High Water") and other talented collaborators, Bradbeer ("Killing Eve," "Fleabag") pulls us right back into this vision of long-ago London and makes us want to stay for a spot of tea and a good yarn.
We enjoy every moment Cavill ("Man of Steel," "The Witcher") is on the screen, and we're certainly left wanting more of the playfully enchanting Bonham Carter ("The Crown").
Along with the always enjoyable Thewlis ("Landscapers," "The Sandman"), other newcomers making an impact are a pair of actresses, Sharon Duncan-Brewster ("Dune") and Hanna Dodd ("Anatomy of a Scandal"), as women whom Enola encounters deeper into her investigation.
Of course, the most important work in front of the camera is turned in by Brown, who is a constant amusement. For every occasional moment where you wonder if she could have made just a bit more of the opportunity, there are at least three she nails. A few of her addresses to the viewer, one of which is most brief, are entirely agreeable.
Brown also shines in scenes shared with Cavill and Partridge; we wish there were more of both.
And we wish for more "Enola Holmes." It seems no third movie has yet been greenlit, but what reason could Netflix have not to remain in this endearing business for the foreseeable future?
Now THAT would be a mystery worth solving.
'ENOLA HOLMES 2'
3 stars (out of 4)
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for some violence and bloody images)
Running time: 2:10
How to watch: On Netflix Friday
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