Simon Morris reviews Sherlock Gnomes, the sequel to the successful animated romcom Gnomeo and Juliet.
When the animated feature called Gnomeo and Juliet came out, the prospects didn’t look good. It relied on the appeal of Shakespeare, garden gnomes and the back-catalogue of Elton John who produced the film.
But it was a palpable hit, and therefore worthy of a sequel - Sherlock Gnomes.
My heart started to sink a little here – dreading the onslaught of gnome puns. If David Bowie couldn’t pull them off in ‘The Laughing Gnome’, I think it’s safe to say they’re never going to fly.
In this iteration, Sherlock Gnomes – voiced almost unrecognisably by Johnny Depp – is the protector of gnomes all over London. He’s accompanied, as always, by a Dr Watson gnome – voiced by the even more unlikely Chewetel Ejiofor.
It opens on the first movie’s hero and heroine - the once star-crossed, now happily together, Gnomeo and Juliet.
Once again they’re voiced by James McAvoy – for some reason as a cockney – and Emily Blunt, as usual playing Emily Blunt.
All the gnomes – there are dozens - have been relocated to a new garden in London. Until one day they all vanish. Just like that.
Obviously this is a job for Sherlock Gnomes who duly arrives and starts throwing his weight around. And immediately he starts finding clues – clues that lead Sherlock, Watson, Gnomeo and Juliet to other clues.
Along the way there are bits of Sherlock Holmes trivia for any Conan Doyle fans who could tolerate being seen at a film called Sherlock Gnomes.
There’s the hat, the magnifying glass, and even an appearance by femme fatale Irene Adler, played by – who else? – R&B singer Mary J Blige.
Two things are abundantly clear at this stage - first, that producer Elton John has insisted on an all-Elton soundtrack, and second, that the cast-list has been plucked from Elton’s address-book.
Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Matt Lucas and towering over them all in the “surely not” department – Ozzy Osborne as a ceramic deer called Fawn.
To be fair, I’ve never seen a ceramic deer played better. Perhaps Ozzy may follow in the footsteps of Ringo Starr and become a beloved children’s entertainer.
Sherlock Gnomes is essentially a family film greatest-hits, even if both the plot and the dialogue have all the hallmarks of a bored writer’s room filling in any gaps.
In fact there are a dozen writers credited on the film – rarely a good sign – and most of their efforts seem to have been spent dreaming up “gnome” puns. And one Sherlock one.
But as yet another strained reference sailed, you’d think, over the heads of the tiny tots, I heard the undeniable sound of a bunch of 8-year-olds enjoying themselves enthusiastically.
Was it the bright, primary colours or the always appealing sight of adults behaving stupidly? Was it simply the fun of going to the cinema and tipping pop-corn over your family? Either way, a good time was had by most of the audience.
Ah well, there’s no accounting for taste. I mean, there’s gnome accounting for taste.