They’ve gone in another direction. After the success of 2011’s Toy Story With Garden Gnomes idea, Gnomeo & Juliet, the producers decide not to mine the Bard’s bibliography for gags and instead turn to Arthur Conan Doyle. Johnny Depp voices Sherlock Gnomes (are you laughing yet?) whose self-importance and obsession with cases has alienated long-time friend and sidekick Dr. Watson (Ejiofor). But they band together one more time to solve the case of the missing gnomes, brought to their attention by Gnomeo (McAvoy) and Juliet (Blunt), while the shadow of Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou) looms…
It might not be as fun and wild as the original, which relied on riff-tastic puns and action to see it over the line, and Gnomeo and Juliet, despite going through some marital problems don’t have a lot to do, but Sherlock Gnomes does have in its pocket a decent mystery (for kids, that is – adults will see the twist coming from two gardens over) and it expands the universe to include Gargoyles and those saluting Chinese cat things in a toy store. But in doing so it raises the question that if all ornamental objects, garden or otherwise, come alive when humans aren’t about, where are the cuckoo clocks, hood ornaments and granny’s porcelain dolls? They also miss a trick by not giving that mankini gnome a bigger role.
What jars is that Sherlock and Watson (I bet there was many an evening where the writers, nine of them, scratched their heads about a pun here but just gave up) aren’t exactly ‘gnomefied’. We still get that gentle clink when their terracotta hands touch something but they look and sound like Sherlock Holmes and Watson, which can at times snap one out of the magic director John Stevenson (Kung Fu Panda) attempts to instil.
Once again produced by Elton John’s Rocket Pictures we’re ‘treated’ to a rundown of John’s hits with reworks of Rocket Man, Are You Ready For Love?, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, and Don’t Got Breaking My Heart in the mix. Mary J. Blige, who voices an ex-girlfriend of Sherlock’s gets a moment to sing an entirely new composition.
The kids won’t get the literary references or the nods to the BBC series (there’s even a Mind Palace bit), and the re-imagining of Moriarty takes a bit of getting used to, but they should enjoy this romp.