Sherlock Gnomes, 2018.
Directed by John Stevenson.
Featuring the voice talents of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Mary J. Blige, Jamie Demetriou, Ashley Jensen and Matt Lucas.
When all of their friends are kidnapped right out of the garden, Gnomeo and Juliet join forces with a backyard-based sleuth to track down the culprit behind a crime wave of ornament disappearances across London.
Though it grossed more than five-fold its budget worldwide, how many people – kid or otherwise – were really clamouring for a follow-up to 2011’s not-bad, not-great animated romp Gnomeo and Juliet? It was an adequate babysitting tool that wasn’t especially painful for adults to sit through, but little else. Seemingly in spite of itself and everyone involved, however, Sherlock Gnomes is here, and its algorithm-programmed “delights” make the original seem positively soulful and effervescent by comparison.
Throwing a gnome version of the World’s Greatest Detective (Johnny Depp) into the mix is a cute enough idea that it theoretically could’ve imbued this perfunctory sequel with some much-needed joie de vivre, but without the required smarts or vocal performers who dare to muster much enthusiasm, this is an exhaustingly dull effort that might leave even the kiddies restless.
There’s an odd straight-to-video feel to the movie from the outset, for while the visuals themselves are actually fairly solid – especially some 2D animated sequences where Gnomes enters his “Mind Palace” – most of the voice actors turn in work so aggressively anonymous you’d be forgiven for thinking they were mere soundalikes.
What’s most baffling of all is the sheer abundance of talented actors who show up for little more than a scattered line or two; Michael Caine’s paycheck probably cost him 10 minutes of his time, and rather than exploit Stephen Merchant’s tremendous talents, he has about six lines of placeholder dialogue. Hell, even legendary 89-year-old character actor James Hong shows up to spit out a few lines, bless him.
James McAvoy is meanwhile unrecognisable enough here as Romeo that he could’ve easily been recast without anyone noticing, though Emily Blunt does bring a smidge more expressiveness to Juliet, yet only just. Depp, while an intriguing casting pick for Gnomes on paper, mostly just settles for a consistently flat monotone that’s not nearly hammy enough. Chiwetel Ejiofor demonstrates sure promise as Watson, but it’s at least a little bit weird that Watson remains white despite the casting.
They’re all thoroughly shown up by comparable unknown Jamie Demetriou, who provides the suitably wacky vocal rendition of antagonist Moriarty. Aided by a legitimately creepy character design – resembling the grotesque love-child of Ghostbusters’ Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, Betty Boop and Sin City‘s Yellow Bastard – the pie mascot iteration of Holmes’ most iconic foe is the sort of loony delight the rest of the movie sorely needed more of.
Ultimately, though, it comes down to the script, which strains for the lowest-effort “joke” almost every single time, settling for some truly atrocious puns – rarely funny even in a knowingly awful way – and discards most of its meta potential in the first two minutes (with an admittedly funny gag name-dropping “Spider-Man: Gnomecoming”).
The plot is, as expected, total nonsense, ultimately resembling a dime-store Toy Story knock-off and little more, and even with an extremely reasonable 86-minute runtime – which you can slice another 10 minutes away from for the end credits – it’s an utter, soul-sucking bore to reach the end. The various third-act reveals are hilariously obvious, even accepting who this is aimed at, and by the time the thing finally ended, I’d already started to forget large swathes of what I’d sat through.
If you really – and I mean really – dug Gnomeo and Juliet, there may be some intermittent pleasures for you here, but otherwise the excessive musical numbers, generic “set-pieces”, lethargic performances and witless script will likely just wear your good mood thin. The small mercy, at least, is that the film’s paltry box office business to date pretty much damns the fate of this most unnecessary “franchise.”
Parents can do so much better for their kids, and if you’re a grown adult seeing this not at-gunpoint, you may want to think on your masochistic tendencies.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.