Enola Holmes is a solid vehicle for the proposition of lead Millie Bobby Brown as a movie star—she infrequently narrates to great effect, in a manner far more Ferris Bueller than John Watson (more on the infrequently in a bit). But as almost anything else the movie fizzles.
Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes? He’s not very smart even though he’s supposed to be super-smart and he’s likable but not good. He actually doesn’t have enough to do to be good or bad, so likable is about as much as Enola allows.
Most of Cavill’s scenes are opposite Sam Clafin—as brother Mycroft (so basically Enola Brown is Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’s previously unmentioned younger sister)—which is good for Cavill, because even though his performance is broad and based on him being charming and having a good smile… Clafin’s just a caricature British jackass. He’s not even smart in Enola continuity.
Holmes family mom Helena Bonham Carter—in a somewhat pointless cameo, mostly in flashbacks—kicks off the present action when she abandons Brown as a kind of sixteenth birthday present. It doesn’t make sense and it’s not supposed to make sense because then you won’t show up for the sequel. Enola is based on a young adult novel series by Nancy Springer, which is swell, but screenwriter Jack Thorne does a terrible job plotting a two hour movie.
It’s like Thorne doesn’t understand how subplots or vignettes work so there’s a very herky-jerky plot involving mean boarding school teacher Fiona Shaw (who’s weirdly hot for Clafin) trying to turn Brown into a proper lady and not the badass proto-inclusive feminist Bonham Carter has been raising her to be and then Louis Partridge’s young lord.
So, Partridge—who’s generally fine, albeit mostly because Enola has got Brown in a movie star performance and then a lot of mediocre performances—has run away from his life of luxury and Brown ends up helping him on her way to London to solve her mother’s disappearance. Except then Brown—and the movie—decide since Partridge is in trouble, let’s focus on him so the second half (right up until the sequel-set up epilogues) is all about Partridge and his family troubles.
In other words… it’s all about the dude. And Brown mooning over him is awkward.
Everyone except Clafin and Shaw have a good scene—including Frances de la Tour, who doesn’t end up doing so well after a strong start, and especially Susan Wokoma, who’s fantastic if literally used as a diversity token.
Bradbeer’s direction is mediocre at best. It’s often like he didn’t tell Brown when to look at the camera for Ferris narration and when not to look at the camera for it, so she’s always glancing directly into the lens. You’d think editor Adam Bosman might edit around it but no, he leans into it. Though, technically, Bosman’s editing is easily the worst thing about the filmmaking.
Giles Nuttgens’s photography is fine. Boring but fine. Okay music from Daniel Pemberton. Great production design from Michael Carlin and costume design from Consolata Boyle.
Enola is a bad star vehicle for potential great star Brown and okay enough a potential sequel wouldn't be unwelcome. Just less about the boys.