Sure, it’s more juvenile. Some of the comedy’s a bit broader. And heaven knows, that star Millie Bobby Brown takes a few extra “fourth wall” moments — staring, puzzled, amused, alarmed or self-satisfied at the camera.
But “Enola Homes 2” is a proper delight, start to finish, one of the best “juvenile” entertainments of the year.
The Netflix sequel — based on the Nancy Springer “Enola Holmes” books — taps into Victorian British labor history, music hall life, “match girls,” rich oligarchs and every Sherlock Holmes movie tradition and trope for two hours that simply romp by.
Seriously, where was this director Harry Bradbeer fellow when Harry Potter & Co. were slogging through their final years?
The Potter comparison comes to mind because like those pictures, these are dashing to YA film adaptation glory on the backs of an impressive cast growing ever more so.
Brown puts “Stranger Things” in the rear view mirror with these whimsical mystery thrillers. We’ve also got Henry Cavill bringing dash, intensity and a pretty good drunk act as Enola’s famous detective brother Sherlock, the one who keeps telling the kid sister “You should write that down.” Just be glad you’re not the one having to haul him back home to 221-B after a bender.
“It’s like carrying a dead horse, on which sits another dead horse!”
Enola’s new case involves a missing “match girl” — so named because women and young girls did the dangerous work of making phosphorus matches and boxing them up for sale. She will have to put her feelings for “reformer” Lord Tewksbury (Louis Partridge) aside, and maybe call on all the things her bomb-throwing suffragette mother (Helena Bonham Carter, perfectly cast) taught her.
“Pull on every loose thread you find,” she says. And more pointedly and pertinently for our fraught times — “Find your allies. Work with them and you will make more noise than you ever could have imagined.”
Imagine Netflix launching a YA action franchise that’s fun and furiously feminist. Susan Wokoma is back as Edith, Enola’s land lady and her mother’s fiercest ally.
There are chases and brawls, a ball — Enola needs a quick dance lesson to fit in there — “I’ll lead, you will follow!” “That seems like a mistake.”
Another Potter alumnus, David Thewlis, plays a sinister new cop. What did Hitchcock always say, kids? “Good villains make good thrillers.” There’s more than one, of course.
Yes, Enola admits to us and the camera, “You’ve seen this before.” But it’s just different enough and everybody involved is hitting their stride with “The Wrath of Khan” of Enola Holmes movies. Stream it, watch it with the kids and stay through the credits. You won’t regret it.
Rating: PG-13, bloody images, violence
Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Helena Bonham Carter, Susan Wokoma, Samara Weaving, Louis Partridge, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Adeel Akhtar, Himesh Patel and David Thewlis
Credits: Directed by Harry Bradbeer, scripted by Jack Thorne and Harry Bradbeer, based on the books of Nancy Springer. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:09