Sherlock Holmes and the Great Escape is a good Holmes animated outing fit for general audiences.
Published on February 28, 2023
Rating 3 /5
At first glance, this animated film looks like a bootleg version of Miyazaki’s classic Sherlock Hound anime series. Thankfully, this anthropomorphic Sherlock Holmes entry can be more distinct and stand on two feet. That said, it’s nowhere near as compelling as Miyazaki’s remarkable animation style or as engrossing as the best of Sherlock Holmes adaptations.
Set in 19th-century London, Holmes finds himself hot on the trail of a mysterious burglar named Mack. Leaving his calling card at the scene of the crimes, Mack has been regarded among London’s lower class as a heroic outlaw, swiping from the rich and giving to the poor. As Sherlock approaches apprehending the serial thief, he learns more about the societal ills Mack has been fighting. The poor and homeless struggle to make ends meet, and children desperate for food find hope only by swiping a wallet or a watch. And when Sherlock discovers an orphanage is involved, he starts having severe doubts about his profession.
This story starts strong enough with its crimes of passion and Sherlock’s deep contemplation about the nature of his work. It’s a shame that the third act mostly sidelines this concern for a different type of film that favors more action and adventure. Instead of the film favoring what is to be done to bring Mack better justice, it becomes more about ensuring he won’t be murdered amid his escape by an extensive and brash fugitive eager for revenge. To the film’s credit, these action sequences are decently exciting, with clever uses of cars and bikes. I particularly dug into how we see the complete scenarios in Sherlock’s mind of tracing which route is best for catching up with a speeding car while on a bike.
Despite the film involving murder and class struggle, this is a film I could easily recommend to kids starting to get interested in detective stories. Sherlock’s many deductions are easily read with clever and creative stagings. This includes everything from exaggerated drawings of recreating crime scenes to cartoonish depictions of chemicals to explain the reaction. It also has some childish lowbrow humor in how bodily fluids become a means of escape for Mack from his prison.
This is an ALMOST type of animated adaptation that comes close to being an entertaining romp of a mystery. It has some solid character designs, a brilliantly envisioned setting, and an okay mystery suitable for a family audience without dumbing down much. Yet it never hits that sweet spot of being a fascinating mystery or an exhilarating adventure. There probably won’t be much dispute about the similarities to Sherlock Hound, given how this version lacks the same punch as Miyazaki.
Sherlock Holmes and the Great Escape is a good Holmes animated outing fit for general audiences. It doesn’t do anything wildly inventive with the material. Still, it has a decent sense of building its world and has a solid style to separate it from other films (even the most obvious comparison). It’s a good but not a great mystery that is a few twists short of being a stirring tale, using the source material for more than just an animated diversion.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.