Boy meets girl. Boy is a hopeless dreamer. How’s this ever going to work out? Sherlock Jr. is fun and has a lot of charm. It’s a little light on laughs, instead often giving us special effects, stunts and action. While some of these are great and it always remains amusing, it’s the kind of film that doesn’t age well. Special effects and action sequences lose their wow when they’ve been greatly surpassed.
Buster Keaton is a lowly cinema projectionist in a small town. Like many young men he doesn’t want to stay exactly where he is: he wants to be a detective and marry the woman he loves – prove himself and get over the hump between boyish innocence and manhood. His primary enemies in this endeavour are his love rival (the bad guy)… and his own ineptitude.
This really is an odd film from a pacing perspective. The central story stitches everything together, but it turns out to be a bit of a patchwork with some tangential scenes out-staying their welcome. Foremost in my mind is the two-minute special effects segment in the cinema. It’s not terribly long but Sherlock Jr. comes in at under forty-five minutes. My problem here isn’t that anything is bad, it’s just not great. The film lacks polish and feels more like a disjointed series of gags than a coherent tale. It’s still fun but it’s not something that will convince newcomers to silent film.