A sidekick who wants his partner's respect. A husband who wants his wife's attention. A master criminal who loves to toy with his heroic counterpart. One guy sworn to protect them all. These are the vibes that parade around in Sherlock Gnomes, the latest kid flick to hit the market.
A sequel to the 2011 modest Gnomeo and Juliet, this film picks up in a famous museum as Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and Doctor Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor, lying low with his voice work) do battle with Professor Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou). The good guys win, but perhaps the battle isn't over. Meanwhile, the family of trolls has been moved to a different location, and things are going so well between the famous lovers. Juliet (Emily Blunt) can't help but think about the new garden and the future, but Gnomeo (James McAvoy) just wants to enjoy time with his lady.
When the trolls are suddenly kidnapped, the detectives are forced to work with the couple in order to save the day. Is Moriarty at it again, or is there someone else causing mischief?
John Stevenson's film has a few problems. It doesn't introduce much that you already don't know, and it's not unique or original in its adventures. The plot devices come and go like chores being checked off a to-do list, while the funny bits in the trailer aren't enough to generate consistent laughs. You won't give yourself a headache staring at your watch, but you won't forget about real life either. There's no escape here.
Depp does a decent Sherlock, playing the same beats that his predecessors have as the self-consumed brilliant detective who thinks he can do it all alone and has it all figured out but clearly doesn't. The rest of the voice cast doesn't leave a dent in your memory, causing a chuckle or two when you read the credits. You won't even recognize Ejiofor or McAvoy, and Blunt is essentially reading lines.
Unlike the recent Paddington 2, Sherlock Gnomes lacks a heartfelt touch as well, because everything that happens in the climax and resolution are so mundane and thinly drawn. Unlike Peter Rabbit, there weren't enough laughs here to make you forget about the familiarity of the setup and plot. With such a famous character and wide array of avenues to travel in, I expected a little more out of this film.
As the film progressed towards its third act, I looked down at my son Vinny. Normally, when he's at the theater, the kid is up in the seat and standing at the attention of cinema's highest flights. Here, he was slumped back in his seat as if he was watching a how-to-change a lightbulb video. When the film concluded, he shrugged and we left.
Sherlock Gnomes doesn't burn a hole in your memory or make you want to tell a friend, and it doesn't feel like a guilty pleasure that you can just turn off your mind for. Everything is so by-the-numbers it may feel like a business transaction. Worst of all, it's just boring.
It's a serviceable animated take on a well known tale that also happens to be a sequel. One could call it a movie solely for kids, but you can't even trust them being happy with the product. You should just skip this flick and take your chances with Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs.