Enola Holmes 2 (2022, Harry Bradbeer)

Enola Holmes 2 runs a long two hours and nine minutes, but the movie actually leaves a bunch on the table. For example, antagonist David Thewlis has history with both Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mama Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter), seemingly separately, but the film never gets into it. Thewlis is phoning it in, gloriously biting off scenery in giant chunks; he can do this part—and well—effortlessly, which is good because director Bradbeer’s not great with actors.

Everyone in Holmes 2 is solid, however. Millie Bobby Brown is a fine lead, except whenever Bradbeer doesn’t know what to do, he has her wink at the camera or break the fourth wall. It’s cute—but for the first and most of the second act, Brown could just be narrating the adventure straight. She opens the film narrating, and there’s always something; why not just go all the way?

Cavill’s effortlessly charming and more than willing to make room for his younger costars, to the point he’s just taking up space. He’s constantly around in this one like they wanted to make him work for the sequel bucks, but they don’t give him anything to do. The film reveals a bunch about Enola Holmes universe versions of Sherlock Holmes mainstays, but mostly just as gags or Easter eggs. It’s awkward world-building.

Louis Partridge is also back as Brown’s love interest, a young lord trying to fight the good fight against the blue blood stuffed shirts. Partridge never really gets anything to do in the movie. He takes a while to show up, then is sort of around, but also not. He’s perfectly good, and he and Brown get some fine teamwork moments, along with romantic ones, but he should’ve been in the movie more. Or less.

Just like Bonham Carter and Susan Wokoma. Wokoma shows up out of nowhere in the late second act like she wasn’t going to be in the movie, but then they needed a combination action and heist sequence, so suddenly Cavill brings her in. Except when she shows up next, it’s with Bonham Carter, and Cavill’s detached from that whole sequence. It’s like the supporting cast is tagging in and out. Got to keep them around, even if they won’t have anything to do until—presumably—Enola Holmes 3D.

The film kicks off with an affable but uninformative recap of the first film. Netflix is assuming you’re binging both pictures. Since the first movie, Brown has gone into business for herself but not seen Partridge, Cavill, or Bonham Carter much. She’s going it alone. And she’s going out of business, right up until adorable street urchin Serrana Su-Ling Bliss shows up at her door looking for her missing sister. Bliss and her friends are matchstick girls, and it certainly seems possible they’ve stumbled into the rich British people killing poor ones for profit.

Ah, capitalism.

It ends up being a semi-true story, which screenwriter Jack Thorne (with story co-credit to director Bradbeer) does an atrocious job integrating. Too many important things in Holmes seem shoe-horned in, with Bradbeer assuming Brown making a joke or Cavill grinning will cover. The film’s a case study in charm only getting you so far.

Decent, thankless supporting turn from Adele Akhtar as Enola Universe Lestrade, and an excellent bit performance from Sharon Duncan-Brewster as another unappreciated Victorian woman. Hopefully, they’ll bring Duncan-Brewster back too.

If Enola 2 had been twenty minutes shorter, it probably would be more successful. The mystery investigation goes on about ten minutes too long. But then it also needs another twenty minutes in the first act, probably. Thorne and Bradbeer don’t flop, but they need more substance for the cast. Not everyone can chaw sets like Thewlis.

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