Enola Holmes 2 doesn’t waste any time getting to what it does best: namely chase sequences and breaking the fourth wall. In the opening moments, Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) is running away from two armed police officers right before she stops, turns to the camera, and explains just how she got into this mess. That style of playful action was a large part of the first film’s charm, and the sequel keeps that up while doing the typical sequel thing of making everything bigger and more elaborate. And with most of the origin story out of the way in the first film, Enola Holmes 2 is free to let loose and have a good time as the kind of big-budget, family-friendly action film that’s all too rare nowadays.
The sequel picks up not long after the original, with Enola — the younger sister of world-famous sleuth Sherlock (Henry Cavill) — setting up her own detective agency. Problem is, business isn’t good. Being both young and a girl is scaring off potential clients, most of whom would much rather talk to Sherlock. Just as Enola is about to close her office doors for good, a case appears: a young girl searching for her older sister. The two work at a local matchstick factory and, very quickly, it becomes clear that there’s a lot more going on with the case than simply a missing kid. Sherlock, meanwhile, finds himself stumped with his own case, and it’s not long before the two inevitably intersect.
The mystery is surprisingly complex — it involves everything from a web of robberies to an outbreak of typhus and a worker uprising — but it has a good momentum to it, constantly racing along from one revelation to the next. In her search for the truth, Enola is forced undercover (both at the matchstick factory and at a fancy ball), gets into plenty of fights, and makes a few daring escapes as well. There are a lot of explosions. Which is perfect because, while it’s a story about a detective, Enola Holmes 2 isn’t a detective movie. It’s the kind of bombastic action flick that will likely appeal to fans of older franchises like The Mummy or National Treasure (or more modern releases that desperately want to channel that energy).
Which is all to say that while Enola Holmes as a franchise isn’t particularly groundbreaking, it is a lot of fun in a very specific way. And the sequel is able to get to that fun much quicker now that we already know most of the cast of characters. Brown and Cavill in particular have a great chemistry; the two bicker like real siblings, albeit ones who are exceptionally intelligent and fiercely independent. Watching Sherlock use his astonishing skills of observation to figure out where his little sister has been is a nice twist on the character.
Elsewhere, Helena Bonham Carter returns as their occasionally absent but generally loyal mother, as does Susan Wokoma as the jiujitsu expert Edith (and the reason Enola fights so well), Louis Partridge as Enola’s ongoing love interest, and Adeel Akhtar as a sweetly bumbling Inspector Lestrade. They’re joined by some great new additions, including David Thewlis as a sinister police superintendent, as well as some surprise reveals — like an excellent take on Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty — that I won’t spoil here.
And while the focus is mostly on the action, there is some nice character growth as well. Again, it’s nothing too deep or shocking, but it’s nice to see Enola start opening herself up and accepting help from friends, while Sherlock becomes, well, almost a real person with actual feelings.
There’s a historical and political backdrop to the film, too, as it takes place during a fictionalized version of the matchgirls’ strike of 1888. Class plays a notable part in Enola Holmes 2, particularly for the lead, who finds herself stuck between worlds: too posh for the working-class kids she’s trying to help, far too unrefined for the elites she needs to investigate.
These are all welcome developments as Enola Holmes firmly establishes itself as one of the few family-friendly blockbuster action franchises of the moment. It has the core things you want from this kind of movie — Stars! Explosions! Jokes! Romance! Sword fights! — and establishes its own distinct flavor without going too far outside the lines of its genre. It’s the kind of playful, comforting action film that, when you see it playing on TV 10 years from now, you’ll have no choice but to sit down and watch.
Enola Holmes 2 is in select theaters on October 28th and starts streaming on Netflix on November 4th.