I am going to start this review with a confession that probably won't shock many of you. I quite enjoyed Gnomeo & Juliet. I know, I know, the bright visuals, the puns, the Shakespeare references, the puns, the voice cast, the Elton John songs, and the puns. It was a strange mix that worked for me. So when they decided to bring out a sequel, utilising the influence of Sherlock Holmes, I figured that it would probably amuse and entertain me. That was not the case.
The plot is, at the heart of it, very simple. A load of gnomes are going missing throughout London, leaving the mystery to be solved by Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor). This coincides with some tension between Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) as the pair settle in to their new London home, alongside the other garden residents. When Gnomeo is also snatched away, Juliet has to team up with Sherlock, who is insufferably dismissive of those who help him. This crime must be the work of Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou), surely, despite the fact that he seemed to be squished/smashed in the opening sequence.
Sherlock Gnomes is bright and colourful, just like its predecessor, and it has some Elton John tunes here and there. That's where the similarity ends. The merging of the various elements just doesn't work well at all, leaving a bit of a mess that will satisfy none but the youngest viewers, who can at least be kept entertained by the main characters.
Director John Stevenson fails to wrestle the script, by Ben Zazove, into anything close to a decent adventure. The few set-pieces fail to impress, the humour falls flat, and, perhaps worst of all, the character of Sherlock is made into something almost unrecognisable. Okay, he LOOKS familiar, but that is it. I MIGHT have missed some references, but this also felt very lazy in the plotting and script, missing out on any opportunity to reference the great selection of cases that Sherlock Holmes fans would be aware of. It smacks of something put together without any enthusiasm or care.
Depp isn't actually bad in his voice role, although I am sure Holmes purists will balk at the very idea, and Ejiofor is equally good alongside him (although his Watson is even further removed from the character that we know and love, all for the sake of a lazy and obvious plot turn in the third act). Demetriou is fine as a non-menacing Moriarty, but you do get a couple of decent villains in the shape of a pair of gargoyles (voiced by Dexter Fletcher and Javone Prince) and Mary J. Blige as a female character named Irene. Blunt and McAvoy are good, once again, in the lead roles, and the supporting cast includes Ashley Jensen, Matt Lucas, Stephen Merchant, and Ozzy Osbourne.
And I almost forgot to mention the Elton John songs, but that's because the film feels as if it almost forgot to include any. You get snippets here and there, and musical motifs interspersed throughout the score, but this is done in a way that is much more jarring than it was in the first gnome-filled tale. That had two main focal points, the Shakespeare-inspired love story and the songs. This has the tale of two garden-dwelling lovers, the central mystery to be solved by Sherlock, and the songs. That may not seem like too many plates to spin but it's obviously one too many, leading to all three becoming more and more wobbly until they fall and smash on the ground.
While it didn't actually pain me to watch it, Sherlock Gnomes was a massive disappointment. And it could have easily been on a par with the first film, if anyone had cared about what they were making.
You can buy the movie here.
Americans can buy it here.