For anyone who’d ever read a bit or seen a bit of Shakespeare, there was a certain charm that came with watching Gnomeo and Juliet (2011). Following in the style of Toy Story – the gnomes come to life when no humans are around and freeze when any cross their paths – and with countless allusions to the great bard – the rival neighbours live in ‘2B’ and ‘Not 2B’ with both alike in dignity. Except one house and accompanying collection of gnomes is blue, the other red. Soundtracked by some old and new Elton John it mostly worked. Colourful and light-hearted, it was funny and rather sweet. 7 years on we now have the sequel we didn’t expect or ask for. Or want…
Sherlock Gnomes isn’t awful. It’s just not as good as it could or should have been.
The story picks up quite soon after the last film. Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) are together, bringing their respective families together and putting an end (mostly!) to the rivalry. When they move from Stratford to London it seems like a fresh start and a chance to create a collaborative legacy in the form of a new garden. Except a spate of gnome disappearances occurring across the city results in their disappearance of all their friends and family – luckily Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and his assistant Gnome Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
But all that [very brightly] glitters is not gold. It’s a bizarre mix of bland hyperactivity, a thinly- sketched out plot occupied by a conveyor belt of jokes of mixed quality. Both tonally and pace-wise the film is uneven, not helped by the very fact the film has a total by-numbers rescue narrative used by so many average/awful animated movies. It’s predictable and all-too familiar; lacking a lot of the charm and wit of the first film which is a real shame. Credit has to go to the cast try their hardest to make a mediocre script sound so good.
The calibre of actors involved (on top of the ones previously mentioned we’ve also got Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Ashley Jensen, Julie Walters. Stephan Merchant to name but a few more) should have resulted in a better script being demanded. Whilst there are a handful of good jokes along with some lovely literary touches these moments are overwhelmed by some less successful moments with gags that just don’t land. The film also decides to go for the route of having the occasional joke just for the adults (the ‘Tiny D’ joke was greeted with a decidedly mixed response) that feels rather unpleasant and immature as opposed to cheeky and conspiratorial.
But what’s done cannot be undone. Watching this alongside its predecessor won’t necessarily be a bill that is double, double; toil and trouble. There’ll be gnome complaints from the kids, at least, but the adults might start to think these are tales told by an idiot, full of sound and sort of funny, signifying nothing…
Dir: John Stevenson
Scr: Ben Zazove
Cast: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Mary J. Blige, Stephen Merchant
Prd: Elton John, Steve Hamilton Shaw, David Furnish, Carolyn Soper
Music: Chris Bacon
Run time: 88 minutes
Sherlock Gnomes previews 5-7th May. Out in cinemas from Friday May 11th.