Question: Did 2011’s Gnomeo and Juliet need a belated sequel? Perhaps not. Whilst retelling Shakespeare’s tragic romance, Romeo and Juliet, using garden gnomes wasn’t without its charms, it certainly wasn’t making Disney/Pixar bank.
Second question: Did the unasked-for sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet need to be a Sherlock Holmes pastiche? Whilst the consulting sleuth is still running strong in repeats of Sherlock and new series of Elementary, it’s surprising that anyone would be begging for an animated version aimed at kids.
And yet, here we are. Life can be funny at times.
Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) are back and just as in love as they were seven years ago. However, the course of true love never did run smooth and, having been heralded as the new keepers of their garden kingdom, cracks are beginning to show in the porcelain.
Juliet wants to make their garden the best it’s ever been and in doing so, unwittingly starts to push Gnomeo away. ‘The garden can’t wait,’ she cries, before brutally adding ‘You can.’ Before this animated sequel can turn into a child friendly Kramer vs Kramer, a bigger problem lands in their lap. Someone has kidnapped all their gnome friends from the garden!
As the lovers search for their missing friends, they cross paths with consulting detective, Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and his put-upon assistant, Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Gnomes and Watson are also on the case of the missing gnomes and believe it to be the work of the insanely camp genius, Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou).
Effectively Sherlock Gnomes is an extended after school special about working together and appreciating what you have in life. Whilst Gnomeo and Juliet bicker about who is best put to take care of the garden, Watson feels wildly underappreciated by Gnomes, who, ironically, sees but does not observe his friend. It’s clear where it’s all heading to and, despite a third act twist, you can be sure that equilibrium will be restored, and everyone will be singing Elton John songs as the credits roll.
This certainly isn’t a bad thing. Sherlock Gnomes is perhaps lighter in tone and jokes than other animated fare that’s out there currently, but it doesn’t make it any less engaging. There’s a gentleness to the film that isn’t soured by a dependence on pop culture references that will be outdated by the end of the year, or a reliance on ensuring that the adults get a couple of blue jokes to keep them awake. Though admittedly, there are plenty of Holmes references for people to sink their teeth into.
Ultimately, this is a romp around London that just wants to make you laugh and it does so rather successfully. Heck, in this dark period of #metoo confessions, Sherlock Gnomes even manages to throw in a message about consent that is a welcome change from the ‘pursue your crush and you’ll eventually wear them down into liking you’ motif we’re all used to.
Admittedly the whole affair is so light it’s in danger of being taken away with the next breeze, but as an afternoon’s flight of fancy it certainly ticks all the boxes when it comes to charm and humour. It’s just a shame the whole affair is tinged by the presence of the problematic Depp. If you can ignore him, then you’re onto a winner.