- release date
- 86 minutes
- Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Johnny Depp, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Mary J. Blige, Chiwetel Ejiofor
- John Stevenson
- Paramount Pictures
In the wake of Paddington 2’s success, it’s hard to write off the potential of animated kids’ movie sequels. That’s especially true in the case of Sherlock Gnomes, the sequel to 2011’s Gnomeo & Juliet. Sherlock Gnomes shares much of the Paddington films’ basic DNA, from the use of a beloved British folk character to a star-studded voice cast, but Sherlock Gnomes doesn’t quite have the originality and spark to make it a pop-culture phenomenon. Yet it’s still an enjoyable family adventure with a solid message.
Much like Disney films do with their fairy tales, Sherlock Gnomes softens some of the darkness from its source material. Here, the conflict between the Montagues and Capulets didn’t end in tragic death. When Sherlock Gnomes opens, Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) are newly married, and are soon named by their parents as the new leaders of the garden community. Having just moved from Stratford-Upon-Avon to bustling London, the gnomes have a lot of yard work to do to get their new garden in shape, and it doesn’t take long for the stress to take a toll on Gnomeo and Juliet’s marriage. Their problems increase exponentially when every other gnome is suddenly kidnapped from the garden, necessitating the intervention of Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp), the self-professed protector of London’s garden gnomes. Where there’s Sherlock there must, of course, be Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), though the latter is starting to chafe under his friend’s condescension. The film’s main through-line, in fact, is the parallel between the Gnomeo/Juliet and Sherlock/Watson relationships, in which one friend starts to take the other for granted. Because they didn’t die tragically, this version of Romeo and Juliet instead have to learn that marriage is an everyday process of work and negotiation and appreciation — not too different from a platonic or working relationship, as Sherlock and Watson prove.
This film has just as much fun playing around with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes canon as the first film did with Shakespeare. The Hound of the Baskervilles is reimagined as a domineering dog at a local park, Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou) becomes a pie mascot, and Mary J. Blige saunters through as a Barbie doll version of Irene Adler. The last of those is the most memorable (particularly when Irene forces Juliet to attend a tea party in her dollhouse, complete with imaginary tea), though the multiplicity of Sherlock Holmes parodies and reboots over the last decade has lessened the impact of these stories. The fact that Holmes’ canon is so well-known now that the plot also becomes fairly predictable, though cartoon dream sequences illustrating Sherlock’s leaps of deductive logic serve to shake up the movie every now and then. B-