Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins
Director: Barry Levinson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: December 2, 2003

"The game is afoot!"

Film ***

The idea is quite an interesting one. What would happen if Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson met at a much younger age? I wonder if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ever pondered the possibilities if his future literary heroes were destined to meet one another while in their teens and attending public school in England.

1n 1985, producer Steven Spielberg and director Barry Levinson brought to life this new and intriguing alleged prelude to the adventures of the world's most famous sleuth with Young Sherlock Holmes. The movie, not only given Spielberg's touch but also the first film to use computer generated special effects compliments of Industrial Light and Magic, is a rather inspired hybrid of an over the top Holmes mystery crossed with elements of an Indiana Jones adventure.

The screenplay's staging of the first meeting between the main characters is actually a much believable one. The young boy then known as John Watson (Alan Cox), is presented as a short, round fellow who isn't always very quick on the uptake. The young man Holmes (Nicholas Rowe) is a tall and slender gentleman, disgusted with his lessons to master the violin, and as sharp and quick witted as ever. Upon first meeting Watson, he is quick to reveal all the details about his future assistant before Watson even says anything.

The mystery at hand is something of a different one. A mysterious figure donning a black cloak is stalking the streets of London. He doesn't exactly murder off innocent victims, but rather administers deadly pin darts which cause the victim to have outrageous hallucinations which result in bizarre deaths. The film opens with the first victim eating a roasted meat which, from his perception, turns into a bloodthirsty bird who acts as if it's being roasted.

The man then returns to his quarters, and the madness doesn't end. Following a series of additional hallucinations, his home catches on fire. The man, with no other option, leaps out the nearest window, only to plunge to his own death. And so the case begins…

Watching Young Sherlock Holmes has a most adventurous feel to it in scene after scene. In many ways, the story is similar to that of a Harry Potter story, since both involve young men discovering a certain knack for something while enrolled in school. I wasn't an avid reader of the original Conan Doyle novels, so that may explain why I found enjoyment in what a loyal reader would not.

As for the visual effects, they are of impressive stature, even by today's standards. For a movie made nearly twenty years ago that wasn't a sci-fi movie the likes of Star Wars, it was hard to come by a movie that could be considered visually impressive in terms of effects. However, George Lucas' ILM company broke the mold of standard effects with Young Sherlock Holmes, as odd a choice it may seem for the introduction of visual effects. You can see for yourself the introduction of computer effects in a nifty seen where a stain glass window comes to life as part of a deadly hallucination.

Whether you have a taste for either contemporary movie adventures, or have more of a love for the adventures of yesteryear, Young Sherlock Holmes is an engaging effort for those looking for thrill of the fantasy sort. And keep in mind that even in the literary world, this is entirely fantasy since the movie makes it very clear that it is in no way related to the original Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Video ***1/2

Paramount delivers quite a surprise of a disc, as the anamorphic offering of this engaging 80s piece fairs better than you might expect it to. The look of Victorian England in the early 1900s has never looked more outstanding. The movie actually takes place more at nighttime then during the day, and given that, It looks as though Paramount took their time on this transfer, ensuring that the many night sequences looks as flawless as possible. The digital effects, needless to say, are very much the highpoint of the presentation. This is one transfer truly worthy of mention for best 80s offering at the next DMC Awards.

Audio ***1/2

Likewise with the audio department, Paramount has crafted a much impressive sound quality with Young Sherlock Holmes. The 5.1 mix offers a tremendous performance of sound quality, which is put to good use in the many action-laden scenes in the ladder portion of the movie. In addition, music score and dialogue prove to be of an utmost clarity, making this a most exceptional presentation of sound, given the movie's age.

Features (Zero Stars)



Young Sherlock Holmes is a marvelous new take on the character of Sherlock Holmes, which is perfect for young and old alike.