“Sherlock Gnomes” stars James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mary J. Blige. Released on March 23, 2018, the film has Gnomeo and Juliet recruiting a detective to track down the missing gnomes.
The film is directed by John Stevenson, who’s mostly known for co-directing Kung Fu Panda, and it is a sequel to the 2011 animated film, “Gnomeo and Juliet”. Let me ask you readers something. Did any of you remember watching an animated family-friendly version of Romeo and Juliet that involves talking lawn ornaments? Did you remember liking it? If you answered “no” to these two questions, then that’s too bad because we’re getting a follow-up to it anyway. It has actually been a while since I’ve seen “Gnomeo and Juliet”. The first time I saw it was during the time where I was learning about the story of Romeo and Juliet at high school. Coincidence? I would assume so. “Gnomeo and Juliet” is one of those animated films that have plenty of charm and a suitable sense of likability, but for some reason, they didn’t stick out as being as memorable as the acclaimed animated features. So, the fact that they made a sequel to "Gnomeo and Juliet" was a bit of a head-scratcher. Head scratching aside, it’s time for me to see if this latest animated adventure can crack the “sequel-itis” case despite its unnecessary existence.
Like the first film, which acts as a kid-friendly version of Romeo and Juliet, “Sherlock Gnomes” is portrayed as some sort of a beginner’s tool for younger audiences who are unfamiliar with the famous characters it’s based on, especially the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his faithful sidekick, John Watson. This is a pretty unique way of introducing kids to this popular detective, in my personal opinion, because there are plenty of Sherlock Holmes adaptations that might not be suitable for young viewers, including the recent ones with Robert Downey Jr. as the title character. While there are other great options out there that’ll get kids into the world of detectives and mysteries, like The Great Mouse Detective, “Sherlock Gnomes” has enough enjoyment and charm to offer some harmless fun for the little ones. The main voice cast reprised their respective roles from the first film, including McAvoy as Gnomeo and Blunt as Juliet. While some of their voice acting was far from perfect, they managed to provide some likability into their characters. Johnny Depp was surprisingly very entertaining as the title character in terms of his personality and his amusing sense of humor. He might not be the best version of Sherlock Holmes, but his recent portrayal proves that his acting skills aren’t fading away anytime soon. Ejiofor and Blige were also solid as Watson and Irene, respectively, with the latter being a counterpart to Irene Adler, one of the most notable female characters in Holmes history. Of course, it’s not a Sherlock Holmes adaptation without Professor Moriarty, Holmes’ arch-nemesis. In this version, Moriarty is portrayed as a pie mascot and is voiced by Jamie Demetriou. He’s pretty much a cliched antagonist who does bad stuff because he needs to. To put it in another way, he's the Riddler to Sherlock Gnomes' Batman. The film has a respectable message about the importance of partnership, although the story’s simplicity and the film’s flat humor didn’t do a whole lot to fully embrace that said message. Kids and parents should be able to enjoy it because of its message, but it can be a hassle for those who are expecting the film to be on the same level as Toy Story. The animation, for what it’s worth, was pretty solid for its character designs as well as a few sequences that involve Sherlock Gnomes’ mind. It’s not as immersive or dazzling as the other animated films like Coco, but it does offer a few colorful moments that I enjoyed.
Overall, it’s no mystery that “Sherlock Gnomes” is a sequel that nobody wanted, but there are better ways to describe it other than “unnecessary” or “pointless”, such as “forgettable” or “an OK movie”. To me, I would describe it as “average” or “mildly tolerable”. While the story and the humor are as hollow as an ordinary garden gnome, the film did its part well in displaying a kid-friendly version of Sherlock Holmes due to its voice cast, the animation, and its relatable message. If you have a kid who’s interested in the detective genre, this film should be a suitable choice for you. Otherwise, you’re better off showing them The Great Mouse Detective.