Quite possibly the most famous fictitious character in all of literature is Sherlock Holmes. The first published work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation dates all the way back to 1887, and most people young and old are at least aware of the pipe smoking super sleuth and his sidekick Dr. John A. Watson. There have been four novels and fifty six short stories by Doyle, but countless other variations from other writers throughout the years. His popularity has translated to radio, television, and over two hundred appearances on film with Guy Ritchie's take hitting screens this Christmas. I'll admit to having never read any of the classic stories, and my first exposure to the detective came with 1985's "Young Sherlock Holmes." Directed by Barry Levinson of "Rain Man" fame, it's a totally off canon piece that suggests that Holmes and Watson met as young boys at a London boarding school and became entangled in their first murder mystery.
Revealing too much of the plot would totally spoil the many joys this film has to offer. Let's just say that there is a murderer on the loose at the Brompton Academy whose weapon of choice is a poison dart that drives victims to suicide with its toxic hallucinatory effects. These murder sequences are the standout moments of the piece and boast some truly memorable (even by today's standards) visual effects such as a stained glass window coming to life and terrorizing a priest.
All the special effects shenanigans would be for naught without the solid performances of the leads. Nicholas Rowe plays Sherlock as the cocky uber intelligent person you'd think he would be at that age, and Alan Cox (son of Brian Cox) is solid as the loveable albeit clumsy Watson.
The talent involved bringing this story to life is astounding. Chris Columbus (Goonies/Gremlins/Harry Potter) wrote the story, and none other than John Lasseter of Pixar fame helped put the F/X together. Don't be suprised if while watching it, you feel that the material would be right at home in an Indiana Jones tale. This is due to the fact that Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment produced it. Over twenty years later, this film still holds up as fantastic celluloid magic. If you have any interest in the upcoming Holmes adventure, let "Young Sherlock Holmes" serve as the warm up act!