Directed by: John Stevenson
Screenplay by: Ben Zazove
Produced by: David Furnish, Steve Hamilton Shaw, Carolyn Soper
Executive Producer: Elton John
Voices provided by: Emily Blunt (Juliet), Johnny Depp (Sherlock Gnomes), James McAvoy (Gnomeo), Michael Caine (Lord Redbrick), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dr Watson), Maggie Smith (Lady Blueberry).
With a vocal cast of A-grade actors most other films can only dream about, those entertaining garden gnomes are back in a sequel to the 2011 animated comedy Gnomeo and Juliet, which borrowed freely from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Sherlock Gnomes, the 3D computer-animated comedy sequel, you guessed it, uses a lot of the ideas and characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic crime sleuth Sherlock Holmes, along with his partner Dr Watson and nemesis Professor Moriarty, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of garden gnomes.
Since the first film the gnomes have been forced to relocate to a new garden in London, where Juliet is so focused on getting everything sorted out or tidied that she has little time for Gnomeo, who tries to keep the romance alive in their relationship.
This situation helps to emphasise the importance of not taking what you have for granted, with Gnomeo and Juliet’s relationship subtly mirroring that of Sherlock and Watson, although the latter relationship is not romantic but more a partnership based on friendship and intellect. It takes a major threat to make Sherlock appreciate Watson’s equal contribution to their crime-solving escapades.
Adults accompanying their children don’t miss out entirely on being entertained, as there are plenty of references throughout the film to classic Sherlock Holmes stories and characters, not that the mostly young audience will be aware of this!
While this film has a fairly straight forward plot, what distinguishes it from other animated fare is the way it doesn’t dumb down the clues, which are quite complicated for Sherlock Holmes to figure out, ensuring audiences are kept engaged and guessing throughout its entirety.
Children will be entertained by the colourful and varied inanimate objects that come to life, and how they interact with each other. The backgrounds are beautifully realised and the animation of the characters is suitably cartoonish as one would expect. The film is quite fast-paced and seems to cram a lot of action, plot and subsidiary characters into its running time, so at least it doesn’t drag.
The catchy soundtrack music is provided by Sir Elton John, the executive producer, who also sings some of the songs, along with other artists who do cover versions from some of his extensive catalogue.
I haven’t seen the first film, but I gathered from my young companion’s comments that unlike Gnomeo and Juliet, which was apparently light and fun with some nice puns and an entertaining supporting cast, Sherlock Gnomes is darker, with less use of the supporting cast from the previous film and more focus on solving the crime, fixing mistakes and renewing relationships that are endangered. Younger viewers may find some of the scenes slightly scary, such as those involving the gargoyles (which look large and menacing but whose personalities balance out their appearance) or Moriarty’s penchant for destroying garden ornaments (although this is never done on screen).
While this film is obviously aimed at a young audience, the presence of such skilled vocal talent, along with lots of sly references to Sherlock Holmes, will hopefully ensure that adults will be entertained as well and not feel punished by having to sit through this animated offering.