I’m “biast” (con): hated the first movie
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
What new spoof adventure shall we hear this time?” the living, breathing, talking, and somehow even farting garden gnomes returning from Gnomeo & Juliet ask us as their second cinematic adventure opens. “Game of Gnomes? Indiana Gnomes?” You laugh… and then you realize, Oh, crap, they mean to keep cranking out these dumb, dull movies.
Gnomeo & Juliet was tedious, obvious, humorless, and trite. Sherlock Gnomes is more of the pointless same. I half suspect that these lazy excuses for kiddie flicks are nothing but some sort of bizarre tax dodge for Elton John, whose classic pop tunes are all over both movies like mayonnaise on corned beef. We all know how creative Hollywood accounting can “prove” that even the most wildly successful and popular movies end up “unprofitable”… and these movies have not been wildly successful and popular. (Sherlock has been open for six weeks in North America and has barely earned back its budget.) Combine this reality with equally fantastical music-industry accounting, and, well, one can only imagine the potential windfall.
This time out, Gnomeo (the voice of James McAvoy: Atomic Blonde, Split), Juliet (the voice of Emily Blunt: A Quiet Place, The Girl on the Train), and all their friends have moved to London… in a cardboard box as their human owners transfer to the city. Here they discover an epidemic of disappearing gnomes, which, if the plot were as realistic as the animated skyline peppered with construction cranes, would turn out to be the result of an overheated real-estate market inflating property prices and driving ordinary people out of the insanely expensive city, taking their garden ornaments with them to cheaper realms. But that’s not what’s going on. Rather, the evil mascot of Moriarty Pies (the voice of Jamie Demetriou: Paddington 2) is kidnapping gnomes, because reasons. So Gnomeo and Juliet team up with ceramic statuary Sherlock Gnomes (the voice of Johnny Depp: Murder on the Orient Express, Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge) and Dr. Watson (the voice of Chiwetel Ejiofor: Mary Magdalene, Doctor Strange) in order to stop Moriarty and bring all the missing gnomes home.
Sherlock announces himself as “the sworn protector of the city’s garden gnomes,” which sounds a tad cuckoo, the sort of thing you just breathe “hoooo-kay” at under your breath and humor him because he’s harmless. It’s not entirely clear if Sherlock and Watson are garden ornaments from someone’s yard or what. Did they escape from a garden-supply store? But I guess that doesn’t matter because suddenly stone gargoyles are also actually alive, and what is Moriarty, anyway? He looks a bit like a gnome-scaled Stay Puft marshmallow man and I suppose is kinda like a Bob’s Big Boy gone evil but also small? Like maybe he’s a tchotchke souvenir version? I’m thinking about this way too much, but also what the hell is with the bizarre Barbie doll–esque Irene Adler (the voice of Mary J. Blige: Rock of Ages), for whom the already flimsy treasure-hunt plot comes to a complete standstill so she can perform a sexy song-and-dance number about how she doesn’t need any man. Because that’s what a children’s movie always needs: a sexy song-and-dance number. (She’s singing about Sherlock, who is at least accurately portrayed as grade-A jerk.) I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than the only expressed theme of the story, and the only unexpressed one, too, which is that we should not take our life partners for granted. Is this something the kiddies fret about?
Odd that Sherlock Gnomes does not invoke the classic Elton John song “I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself.” I wonder why…
• Gnomeo & Juliet (review)