Everything was right for Young Sherlock Holmes (1985). How could it possibly go so wrong? Directed by Barry Levinson, written by Chris Columbus (Gremlins, Home Alone, Harry Potter), produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, featuring a time-tested character, and awash with groundbreaking special effects from Industrial Light and Magic, the movie is essentially a crowd of ringers cracking bats and hitting homers.
Nonetheless, it underperformed, and plans to expand into a long series of adventures started and ended with one. Critics were mildly impressed to mildly annoyed with it, and while the film found an audience on home video, the fandom surrounding it remains modest to this day.
This likely explains why the film has reappeared from Paramount Home Video as a Bluray release, not a new 4K edition, unlike another adventure suffering similar responses, 1981’s Dragonslayer, slated for late-March. There’s a part of me that believes the only reason Paramount is giving love to the latter is to jump on hype and confusion surrounding HBO’s hit series House of the Dragon. Young Sherlock Holmes has no immediate trend energy, returning after the character has been flogged for years in variations on television.
Why did this movie get so heavily dinged at the box office? For this, you need to go back just one year prior, and identify Spielberg and Columbus as prime suspects. 1984 was the year of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, directed by Spielberg, another adventure film leaning heavily into a trope of an insidious cult using chemically-induced mind control. It was also the year of Gremlins, Columbus’ big break as a screenwriter. Both movies shocked parents with their dark, violent themes, prompting the creation of the PG-13 rating. Young Sherlock Holmes was one of the first recipients of the designation. It is speculation on my part, but I presume Holmes was deep in production as the Temple of Doom poop was hitting the fan, and it was too late to pull back from the similarities.
You’ll get few complaints from me. I love Young Sherlock Holmes and its sometimes convoluted tones. There’s no question in my mind that this movie got Columbus the directing seat for the first two Harry Potter films, and one can easily imagine Harry and Sherlock’s team-up, first disliking each other – one being too naive, the other too arrogant – but eventually working arm in arm.
The reissue comes in a snazzy Steelbook edition which looks a lot sharper than Paramount’s old DVD entry.
The film could have used a remastering to repair some of the issues found on the original release, the most annoying being “film weave.” This occurs during the telecine process when the film is transferred to video. The physical film strip sprocket holes misalign, causing the slightest shake in the image. There’s nothing so bad it will take you out of the movie, but it is obvious during any onscreen credits. It also betrays that this is likely the same dupe that was used for the DVD and any improvements are medium-related. I cannot say the image on it is so profoundly better than what came before. You’d have to put both entries side-by-side to really intuit one as clearer than the other. Nothing’s a revelation on this one.
For fans of the film, this is still an upgrade, if only marginal. It comes from that mid-period where Amblin features had fair certainty of entertainment value, and Young Sherlock Holmes resides in that cozy niche where you can pop the flick on during a boring afternoon and simply sink into it. This release will not fire up a new, passionate fandom, but for those who were in the first time around, it’s nice to have.