Hot Take: If you’re not under 8 years old, this is pure torture. If you’re under 8 years old, you’re probably wondering why Gnomeo said, “Don’t call me Tiny D.”
Punny doesn’t always mean funny. If you need proof, check out Sherlock Gnomes, the unnecessary but inevitable sequel to 2011’s Gnomeo & Juliet (thanks to a worldwide box office of nearly $200 million). Better yet, save yourself some time and money and take my word for it. Instead of sticking with the Shakespeare theme, it was another classic writer’s work that would get the gnome treatment as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s world of Sherlock would join forces with the existing gnomed-out Shakespeare world. Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? A writing team of just one (Ben Zazove) managed to bring Sherlock Gnomes to the big screen while Gnomeo & Juliet needed an entire baseball team to make it’s way to the big screen. Usually, a team of writers is bad news but maybe Ben could have used some help in tightening up his pun-filled, occasionally racist, frequently Elton John referenced (he’s the executive producer after all) script which has about as many laughs as John’s Candle In the Wind. Sherlock Gnomes is so bad, it gives 2017’s The Emoji Movie a run for its money for worst kid’s film in the last 12 months. That’s saying a lot since The Emoji Movie is one of the worst kid’s film of the last decade.
James McEvoy and Emily Blunt return as Gnomeo and Juliet with a number of the original film’s characters and voices returning. Newcomers Johnny Depp (as Sherlock Gnomes), Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Gnome Watson), Jamie Demetriou (as Moriarty) and Mary J. Blige (as Irene) all join the existing cast and add nothing new to the sequel. Depp, in particular, sounds as if he’s going through the motions and there are times where Ejiofor (during narrations) sounds completely different than his Watson character. Blige offers a nice musical number which feels crowbarred into the movie because, well, you have Mary J. Blige’s voice, so why not?
I may never know how the film ended. My hope is that all of the gnomes were smashed beyond repair to prevent a third chapter where Charles Dickens or F. Scott Fitzgerald get the gnome makeover. (Can’t you see Gnome Expectations or The Gnome Gatsby happening if Sherlock Gnomes finds similar box office success to Gnomeo & Juliet?) I fell asleep during the third act and woke up during the credits. I missed the last 15 minutes of the film and there’s no way the final 15 minutes could have salvaged the mundane and unimaginative 70 minutes that preceded it. Every Sherlock reference you’d expect is there and because it’s as expected and the gnomish newness is gone since the novelty has worn off after seeing it once in Gnomeo & Juliet, Sherlock Gnomes feels stale and tasteless.
There’s nothing here for adults. There’s a few juvenile jokes that it would take an adult to understand which might lead to a question about what the character meant but the exact opposite of what the better animated films (such as last year’s Coco) are able to pull off in making a product for all ages not just the under-10 set that the movie will already visually appeal to. Executive producer Elton John says the film is a love letter to England. This feels more like a cash grab than a love letter though and there’s really no reason to contribute to the cash grab unless you have a cranky tyke who can’t stop talking about the trailer. Even then, it would have to be a last resort.
It might give you an hour and a half of peace.
It’s not cheaper than a babysitter… and likely less effective.