Sherlock Gnomes serves up surprisingly watchable family fare


Harrison Glaze

Last month, the new animated family comedy-adventure film Sherlock Gnomes hit theaters. The sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet, it follows the previous movie’s titular heroes as they move to London and encounter the legendary detective.

Harrison Glaze, Reporter, Cartoonist

In 2011, Gnomeo and Juliet, a twist on Shakespeare’s classic tale featuring computer-animated garden gnomes, took the world of family movies by storm, or at least by a decently sizable gust of wind. Starring major Hollywood players and featuring the music of Elton John throughout, the film achieved considerable box office success, leaving observers wondering: Why? Why a children’s movie about lawn ornaments based on literary star-crossed lovers?

Gnomeo and Juliet’s answer: Why not?

Seven years later, central couple Gnomeo, voiced by James McAvoy, and Juliet, voiced by Emily Blunt, return to silver screens around the world, newly moved in the interim from Stratford-upon-Avon to London. Before long, the two become entangled in a complex mystery surrounding the disappearance of London’s gnome population, joining forces with iconic detective Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp), his sidekick Dr. Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and his mercurial ex-fiancée Irene (Mary J. Blige) to defeat villainous pie mascot Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou). Although the rest of the performances provide few moments to write home about, Blunt and Ejiofor especially give their characters surprising and welcomed depth, somehow managing, despite the odds, to convince viewers to empathize with garden gnomes.

The jokes in the film feel somewhat less inspired than those in Gnomeo and Juliet, and the film’s plot frequently lacks in originality. Nonetheless, the humor strikes enough correct notes to appeal to both young viewers and their parents, and similar to The Lego Movie, the film keeps itself afloat in its campier moments through winking self-deprecation. It also conveys a surprisingly nuanced message, moving beyond tired “be yourself” platitudes to thoughtful observations on the importance of respect and self-sacrifice in a relationship.

In the end, though, one may find it difficult to justify Sherlock Gnomes’s existence in the theatrical atmosphere. Of all the children’s movies just waiting to meet the world, why release a sequel to a seven-year-old oddity about talking lawn ornaments?

With all due respect, why not?

The Chant’s Grade: B+