Review: Sherlock Gnomes (2018)

Sherlock Gnomes (2018)

Directed by: John Stevenson | 86 minutes | animation, adventure | Dutch voice cast: Ricardo Blei, Peggy Vrijens, Sander de Heer, Pepijn Gunneweg, Owen Schumacher | Original voice cast: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Mary J. Blige, Johnny Depp, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Stephen Merchant, Ozzy Ozbourne, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Matt Lucas

‘Gnomeo & Juliet’ may not have been the best or most beautiful animated film of 2011, but many could appreciate the wonderful kitschiness of garden gnomes brought to life. Not least because of the nice soundtrack full of Elton John songs. The legendary bespectacled British singer and his partner David Furnish executive produced the film, which may have contributed to the high density of Elton John music. But the film and the music complemented each other perfectly. Elton John is also closely involved in the sequel to ‘Gnomeo & Juliet’, ‘Sherlock Gnomes’ (2018). This time without his husband. The references to John go further than just musically; it’s fun to track them all down. ‘Sherlock Gnomes’ offers space for that; the film is a lot less captivating than its predecessor. The novelty has worn off a bit now.

In ‘Sherlock Gnomes’, Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) are now a couple. They bicker a bit, like couples do, which puts their relationship on edge. But that’s not so much the problem with this movie. Stradfort-upon-Avon has since been exchanged for the heart of London, where the garden gnomes mysteriously disappear from the gardens one day. Sometimes with entire families at the same time. When the ‘neighborhood gnomes’ and even relatives of the Montagues and Capulets go missing, the concerned Gnomeo takes serious measures: he enlists the best ‘accessory detective in the country’, Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp), to investigate the disappearance of to solve the garden gnomes. Together with his loyal assistant Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) he sets out to investigate. His search takes him to all sorts of exotic locations in the city, including a Chinese restaurant and the Museum of Natural History. But this garden gnome version of the illustrious detective turns out not to be as capable a sleuth as his name suggests…

It is directed by John Stevenson (the man behind ‘Kung Fu Panda’, 2008), who took over from Kelly Asbury. The screenplay was written by the inexperienced Ben Zazove. There is little wrong with the animations; the earthenware garden gnomes are particularly detailed and lifelike, complete with convincing dents, dents, cracks and other irregularities. We also have a great voice cast, which includes Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Matt Lucas, Stephen Merchant, Mary J. Blige and Ozzy Osbourne in addition to the aforementioned names. With such big names in the cast you expect some liveliness, but the characters remain flat and colorless. Even the Sherlock Gnomes character, voiced on autopilot by Johnny Depp, doesn’t deliver what you hope. But where it really goes wrong with ‘Sherlock Gnomes’ is the screenplay, which has very little to offer except for a handful of standardized action sequences, a lackluster villain and lame jokes. Young viewers will surely enjoy the messy chaos, one-sided running gags and sluggish storyline; adult ‘onlookers’ who found the previous film wonderfully hilarious and kitsch are now coming home from a rude awakening.

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