The game is in progress. Again.
And for those who enjoyed the first Enola Holmes of 2020, its sequel is once again a game worth playing.
Admittedly, Netflix’s unimaginative title Enola Holmes 2 – which once again follows the adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ detective little sister – isn’t exactly stilted cinema. This is feather-light, family-friendly fare through and through.
But that doesn’t diminish its ability to distract, thanks largely to a fun, fast-paced script, rich production values, and director Harry Bradbeer’s willingness to hold back and let star Millie Bobby Brown shine.
In my review of the first 2020 Enola Holmes, I described it pound for pound as one of the most enjoyable of the many Sherlock offshoots we’ve received in recent years.
The same applies here. Like the first film, the sequel demonstrates an obvious familiarity with – and appreciation of – Doyle’s original work, but avoids treating it with such reverence that it forgets how to have fun.
A pleasant lark
The result is a thoroughly entertaining Lark that – despite a slightly bloated running time of 2 hours and 9 minutes – combines a sense of playfulness with traditional Holmese tension and a satisfying dose of cleverness.
The final element comes in the form of a central mystery revolving around London’s historic Matchstick Girl strike of 1888, including the involvement of a key figure in that event, who shall remain unnamed here to avoid spoilers.
Just like its predecessor, the sequel benefits from a sense of woman power timeliness. Enola Holmes? She insists.
She learned this spirit from Eudoria Holmes, the radical suffragette mother of Mycroft, Sherlock and Enola. Played here once again by the inimitable Helena Bonham Carter, who chews the scene with more elegance, skill and unabashed glee than anyone in Hollywood.
It was she, as we learned in the first film, who – in her own delightfully unconventional and slightly wacky way – taught her offspring to think differently.
Enola on the case
Enola Homes 2 picks up shortly after the events of that first film, with young Enola starting her own detective agency—or trying to. A lack of paying customers makes it an exercise in frustration.
Cue Bessie (Serrana Su-Ling Bliss), a young worker from a nearby match factory who needs someone to help them track down a missing colleague. Of course, Enola takes the case.
And with that, the game is really underway, sending Enola on a perilous adventure through a beautifully recreated Victorian England. This includes a well-crafted series of clever clues, clever deductions and well-timed surprises, all punctuated by a series of chases and other action-packed elements to keep things going.
Along the way, various characters from the first film cycle enter and exit the proceedings. These include Carter’s Eudoria as well as Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel”) as Sherlock, Adeel Akhtar as Inspector Lasttrade and Louis Partridge as Enola’s flame, the handsome boy Lord Tewkesbury.
New to the cast this time is Sharon Duncan-Brewster (“Dune”) as the mysterious Mira Troy; and David Thewlis (Professor Lupine in the Harry Potter films), who brings a lingering sense of taunting menace as Scotland Yard’s Superintendent Grail.
A charming star
Everyone brings something special to the film, but ultimately Enola Holmes 2 is Millie Bobby Brown’s world; the others just live in it.
She’s in almost every frame in Bradbeer’s film, and her effervescent charm – a quality that comes from the confluence of cleverness and silliness – is the one quality that makes the film above all else work.
Brown’s Enola, who repeatedly breaks the fourth wall with winks and nods as if granting audience permission to ride along, is a far cry from the one-dimensionality of Eleven, her emotionally atrophied character in the Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things.
This role only allows her occasional moments to emote. In “Enola Holmes 2” she gets the opportunity to show the full range of her talents. Not only does she grab it, but she puts the entire production on her back and carries it.
It’s rare to find someone who can do that. It’s even rarer to find someone who can do it as effortlessly as Brown.
Yes, “Stranger Things” made her famous. But the Enola Holmes series — especially if it keeps delivering new chapters of this caliber — could make her a full-fledged movie star.
Mike Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
ENOLA HOLMES 2
3 stars, out of 4
SNAPSHOT: A family-friendly sequel about Sherlock Holmes’ little sister.
TO WATER: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge, Hannah Dodd, Adeel Akhtar, David Thewlis, Sharon Duncan-Brewster.
DIRECTOR: Henry Bradbeer.
RATED: PG-13, for some violence and gory visuals.
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours 9 minutes.
WHEN AND WHERE: Stream on Netflix now.