Following in the footsteps of the Man Of Steel and Captain America, Gnomeo and Juliet become the latest characters to have their sequel hijacked by a bunch of different characters as the franchise tries to position itself as a vehicle to reimagine classic British literature, a sort of anthology of garden toy stories.
When garden gnomes mysteriously vanish all over London, including Gnomeo and Juliet’s friends and family, there’s only one gnome to turn to: Sherlock Gnomes and his loyal sidekick Watson.
“Sherlock Gnomes” is a by-the-numbers sequel, if the numbers were generated by a faulty bingo machine propped up at a wonky angle. While the original “Gnomeo And Juliet” was a surprisingly charming and sweet retooling of Shakespeare’s classic play, woven cunningly throughout with classic Elton John tunes, this sequel feels lazy, repetitive and like half an idea for a movie padded out with what the makers hope will be residual affection for the characters from a different and entirely unconnected film.
Emily Blunt is as reliable as ever but, thanks to an awkward, forced script, McAvoy seems to have trouble finding Gnomeo again, coming across as angry and oafish instead of goofily noble. Johnny Depp’s Sherlock Gnomes and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Dr Watson likewise offer nothing new or interesting in their tediously vanilla takes on the classic figures although admittedly the animations used for Sherlock’s ‘Mind Palace’ are pretty good.
Worse still is the crass and obvious attempts to “Minion”-ise the Goons, the pointy-hatted gnomelets who provide the narrative chorus and occasional slapstick buffoonery. Much of that buffoonery appears in the trailers but, conspicuously, is absent from the film, much to the annoyance of the littlest Craggling who was looking forward to Mankini’s jacuzzi-inspired mudbath hijinks only to be disappointed. In that, at least, she was far from alone.
The story meanders from one half-cocked set piece to the next with little in the way of energy or wit and occasionally punctuated by cacophonous remixes of some of Elton’s familiar hits as well as a gratuitously out of place musical number from Mary J Blige and some casual racism as the gang head to London’s Chinatown. Literal throwaway references to Ray Harryhausen and famed Czech animator Karel Zeman only serve to reinforce the film’s lofty aims and actual mediocrity.
Bland and forgettable, this is garden ornament gadabout will soon find itself consigned to the compost heap of movie history.