Trying to establish her own way in the world, Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) has opened her own detective agency in London, with hopes to use her intellect to solve cases. However, nobody wants to give her a chance due to her age, gender, and relation to brother Sherlock (Henry Cavill). Just as she’s about to give up, Enola is approached by Bessie (Serrana Sul-Ling Bliss), a young match girl looking for her missing sister, Sarah. Going into the match industry to figure out what’s going on, Enola soon realizes that something isn’t right about the place, gathering evidence of Sarah’s interest in exposing shady dealings and her interactions with a shadowy suitor. When someone close to Sarah is murdered, Enola has to deal with the fallout, also keeping close to Sherlock, who’s wrapped up in his latest case, which is causing him to doubt his skills. And there’s Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge), Enola’s crush, who’s become a politician unsettled by all the responsibility expected of him.
Enola is searching for independence in “Enola Holmes 2,” striving to become her own person while carrying a last name that reminds the paying public of Sherlock and his famous skills of deduction. She’s opened her own business, but only doubters visit it, quick to dismiss her without testing her abilities, causing the young woman tremendous frustration. Enola leans on advice from her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), and she’s hired by Bessie, who worries about her missing sister, pulling the detective into the world of match production to find out what’s happened to Sarah. Returning screenwriter Jack Thorne uses the real-world woes of the 1888 Matchgirls’ Strike to inspire the mystery at the heart of “Enola Holmes 2,” exploring the punishing working conditions and strange illnesses of the workers, with Enola attempting to extract evidence without being caught by security.
There are missing pages in a ledger and a note from a secret admirer to follow, with “Enola Holmes 2” visiting a gentleman’s club and soon encountering a dead body, forcing Enola to meet Superintendent Grail (David Thewis), a crusty man of the law who has little patience for her. Enola’s story frequently intertwines with Sherlock, who’s losing his edge to drink and depression, facing a case that’s difficult to crack, pursuing an unknown suspect who’s just as clever as he is. Cavill has a larger role in “Enola Holmes 2,” with Sherlock becoming part of the story, worried about his sister but recognizing how the clues match in both cases, connecting them. And there’s the return of Tewkesbury, which allows the sequel to reignite romantic tension between the couple, as Enola is careful to avoid commitment, but bothered by other girls interested in the maturing teen. The YA-ness of the source material emerges with his subplot, diminishing the sharp pacing of the first hour as matters of the heart step in front of life-or-death situations.
“Enola Holmes 2” keeps busy with various adventures, visiting prison and a lavish ball, and there are numerous characters to meet, including Mira (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), a secretary who extends kindness to Enola. Director Harry Bradbeer dials down the action for the sequel, which offers more mystery elements, which, for Sherlock Holmes devotees, won’t be impossible to crack long before the movie gets around to reveals. And there’s still the issue of overlength, with 129 minutes much too long for something that’s basically fluff, despite the production’s determination to be taken seriously as a detective tale. There’s still plenty of fun to be had here, and messages on empowerment, corporate abuses, and prejudices are timely, giving the material something to explore. There’s also a clear path created for “Enola Holmes 3,” which isn’t an unpleasant development, as long as the sleuths are put on the case of the bloated run time.