UK Release Date: 11th May 2018
Runtime: 86 minutes
Director: John Stevenson
Writer: Ben Zazove
Starring: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matt Lucas, Mary J Blige, Jamie Demetriou, Ashley Jensen, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith
Synopsis: When garden gnomes start mysteriously disappearing from the backyards of London, a ceramic super-sleuth takes up the case and tries to follow the clues.
A decade ago, nobody would have believed the prospect of an animated movie franchise based entirely around garden gnomes parodying classic works of literature. However, seven years after Gnomeo and Juliet, it’s the work of Arthur Conan Doyle that’s in the crosshairs of the budding franchise with Sherlock Gnomes. It’s an easy film to bash – and many critics have dutifully done so – but that seems like a harsh way to treat a movie that, for everything about it that’s flawed, is a good-natured and enjoyable family adventure that will delight its young audience.
Despite the fact they’re no longer in their own Shakespearean story, we’re sticking with protagonists Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt). The couple are now in charge of their garden gnome friends, who have relocated from Warwickshire to the hustle and bustle of London. One day, all of the other gnomes are mysteriously kidnapped and Gnomeo and Juliet join forces with Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and Dr Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who are investigating a spate of similar disappearances across the city. The calling card of Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou) has been found at every scene, despite the villain’s recent death.
Many people will have read that plot description and assumed that the movie is stupid, which it is, and terrible, which it isn’t. Sherlock Gnomes is entirely aware of what kind of movie it is and it is exceptionally comfortable in its skin – if indeed ceramic gnomes have skin at all. This is a pun-heavy, breathtakingly silly and utterly hyperactive children’s movie that makes no allowances for the parents in the audience. It trades heavily in the comedy of low-hanging fruit – jokes about how expensive coffee is in London – and has no issue with delivering bizarre dialogue about “ornamental crime on a scale we’ve never seen before” with a completely straight face.
But crucially, it has a sense of joy and fun behind it. The vocal performances are peppy and funny-voiced, with Johnny Depp doing a passably posh Holmes and Mary J Blige providing an impressively unique Irene Adler, while the machinations of the mystery plot are treated with the gleeful sense of joining the dots that the genre requires. There are some neat nods for Holmes fans, including a black-and-white evocation of the character’s ‘Mind Palace’ that is every bit as enjoyable as the celebrated sequences in the recent BBC series.
In a world in which Paddington 2 exists and Pixar continues to fire on all cylinders, a movie like Sherlock Gnomes is never going to feel like the peak of animated cinema. The plot is as basic and schematic as it possibly could be and there are some seriously dated gags that should have been expunged from the script at least three or four drafts before any of the animators started working. With that said, though, there’s plenty to be appreciated in a movie that has a real sense of its own identity and is simply willing to get out there and have a chuckle.
Pop or Poop?
The chances of Gnomeo and Juliet firing the starting pistol on a franchise seemed pretty slim just a year or two ago. Now, however, it looks as if they have a bona fide source of revenue on their hands. There’s endless scope for equally silly adaptations of equally prestigious works of literature. If they’re anything like as fun as this one, I’m totally on board.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.