Director: John Stevenson
Starring: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Ozzy Osbourne, Ashley Jensen, Mary J. Bligh, Matt Lucas, Stephen Merchant, Julie Walters, Richard Wilson
Written by: Ben Zazove, (story) Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, (story and based on characters created) Andy Riley, Kevil Cecil, (characters created) Rob Sprackling, John Smith, Kelly Asbury and Steve Hamilton Shaw
Running Time: 86 mins
Release date: 11th May 2018
Back in 2011 came a very sweet natured family animation based on Shakespeare’s famous romance, amusingly called Gnomeo and Juliet. Now, 7 years on, we get the sequel no one asked for but got, Sherlock Gnomes, in which the famous detective joins up with the gnomes from the first film for an all-new, yet utterly uninspiring, adventure that lacks anything new or, for that matter memorable.
Moving to London, Gnomeo and Juliet are given the position of rulers of the garden, a position that interferes with their relationship. When Gnomeo tries to make it up to his love by venturing out into the streets of London, Juliet has to save him and while they are both out, the rest of the gnomes disappear. This is a job for the super sleuth, Sherlock Gnomes and his trusty sidekick, Dr Watson. The pair believes it could be the return of Gnomes’s arch enemy, Moriarty, a figurine who wants all gnomes destroyed.
Once again produced by Elton John’s Rocket Productions (you can tell that the extravagant singer is involved as the incidental music and songs are all his) this has a very starry cast providing the voices and the animation fits into that middle ground of not as good as Disney/Pixar but not as terrible as most other studio produced CGI animations. The streets of London are well designed and executed.
Where the film falls down is everywhere else. The joke for the original film was taking a well-worn story and mixing in plenty of puns about gnomes. This time, the story is the central focus, that of chasing clues around London while facing various perils. None of which are exciting enough to excite the audience this is aimed at. Even the jokes now seem stale and by half-way through, all gnomes puns have been dropped and the humour disappears altogether. This would have been fine if we felt any real peril for the cast but this is a film aimed at kids, so threats and peril are wafer thin and there is nothing too upsetting or distressing, while leaves the film feeling flat and uninvolving.
After a while, with Elton John’s back catalogue suped-up for the 21st century (so we get Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with a banging bassline) start to grate, we go through the motions as Sherlock, Watson, Gnomeo and Juliet run around being chased by an assortment of animals, inanimate objects and gargoyles, each time trying to be more spectacular than the last yet failing to bring any real nail-biting entertainment. In fact, it’s all rather bland.
The voice cast, while crammed with familiar names and all trying their best to inject fun and energy, are having to cope with a very lacklustre script. Johnny Depp does his best English accent as the lead character while returners James McAvoy and Emily Blunt have character voices that work for their star-crossed lovers. You just keep thinking you wish they deserve stronger material.
Sherlock Gnomes will probably do well as a time-waster at the weekend for families looking for something other than superheroes but it’s never going to ignite the same delight a child gets from a Disney or a Pixar and the one thing that we all don’t want is another one. I can’t think of any other gnome-pun related literary titles. I hope the writers can’t either.