I feel that if you’re entire existence as a movie is built around a pun in your title, you’re doomed from the onset. This, at least, is what we have with Sherlock Gnomes, a de facto sequel to 2011’s Gnomeo and Juliet, a film I forgot even existed. But here we are, back with this low-rent Toy Story knockoff that, despite such low expectations, actually has the kind of talent involved where the end product is that much more unfortunate.
The idea here is that the gnomes and various garden ornaments from Gnomeo and Juliet — who are secretly ambulatory and self-aware when humans aren’t around — find themselves in a new home. The problem, however, is that there are some strange disappearances happening in the garden ornament community, meaning Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) must call in the great detective Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) to crack the case.
Yes, it’s all as eye-rollingly dense as the setup makes it sound. With such a flimsy foundation of puns to build upon, the movie has little to work with. The tone of the movie is generally genteel in a British way, but the humor oscillates between flaccid turns-of-phrases and jokes that scrape the bottom of the barrel. I’m waiting for the day that Mankini, the gas-passing gnome in a Zardoz-esque red bikini finally flits from my memory. The plot itself does nothing truly exciting but instead goes through the motions of what one expects from a kiddie-fied detective story. They even just plop all the same Elton John songs on the soundtrack and call it a day.
What’s frustrating is that the movie maybe shouldn’t be this wasteful. We’re given only a limited amount of time on this Earth, and there are people who feel it’s perfectly OK to spend millions putting Chiwetel Ejiofor in a talking gnome movie. If you told me a movie with McAvoy, Blunt, Ejiofor, Maggie Smith and Michael Caine was coming out, I’d be intrigued. But Sherlock Gnomes is a movie that’s just been slapped together, with the star power of the voice acting being used not for any real artistic merit, but more so in a cynical ploy for box office.
You might be saying that most films are like this, that it’s a business, that Sherlock Gnomes is for kids anyway, who cares? And you’d be right, of course, but this doesn’t mean that a moviegoing audience should be forced to settle for mediocrity. And neither should kids just because they’re kids. Rated PG for some rude and suggestive humor. Now playing at AMC Classic River Hills, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.