Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1985. Amblin Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic, Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Chris Columbus, based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt. Produced by Mark Johnson, Henry Winkler. Music by Bruce Broughton. Production Design by Norman Reynolds. Costume Design by Raymond Hughes. Film Editing by Stu Linder. Academy Awards 1985.
Screenwriter Chris Columbus and director Barry Levinson ruminate on the early years of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective and imagine what may have turned him into the socially awkward genius adult who has charmed readers for more than a century. Young John Watson (Alan Cox) is sent to study at an academy where he quickly befriends the brainy Holmes (Nicholas Rowe), who is already impressing everyone with his deductive abilities but has difficulty making friends. A mystery is brewing around them as a number of people are being shot with a drug that makes them hallucinate before committing suicide in very gruesome ways; their hallucinations make for some creepy, frightening scenes (including the first use of a completely computer-graphically created character, courtesy of the folks at Pixar). Holmes is kicked out of the school after a petty rival frames him for cheating, but rather than going home he holes up in the laboratory of the retired professor who was continuing his research until he became one of the victims of the mysterious killer. There, Holmes, Watson and the deceased professor’s beautiful niece Elizabeth (Sophie Ward) assemble clues that lead them to an underground cult with ties to the school. While many of the film’s elements don’t feel all that original, coming out a year after the Indiana Jones sequel means a lot of it feels like Temple of Doom for kids, but the excellent visual effects and the good-natured chemistry between the main characters makes for a bright and fun adventure that can be enjoyed by all ages.