Review:‘Sherlock Gnomes’ doesn’t stand out

Katie Walsh
Tribune News Service

There’s a current boom of family-friendly film fare inspired by beloved British literary characters, which makes this moment ripe for the animated “Sherlock Gnomes,” the sequel to 2011’s “Gnomeo and Juliet.” In terms of ranking these adaptations, “Sherlock Gnomes” is quite a bit more pleasant than “Peter Rabbit,” but doesn’t touch the wonder of “Paddington 2.” It’s a fairly serviceable animated feature, with a few inspired elements, and more than enough gnome puns to go around.

The beloved British literary characters are, of course, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, as well as Romeo and Juliet. They offer enough rich, recognizable lore to pad out this London-set . As for the appeal of using garden gnome characters, well, it’s anyone’s guess. Perhaps the Travelocity Roaming Gnome was an inspiration?

It’s essentially “Toy Story” mashed up with “Sherlock Holmes,” with a dash or two of “Romeo and Juliet.” The garden gnomes and lawn ornaments come to life while their owners are away, ruling over their bucolic backyard domains. Gnomeo (James McAvoy), Juliet (Emily Blunt), and their garden menagerie have been uprooted from to the country to the city, and just as they’re settling in to London life, they learn the hard way about the harsh realities of urban crime.

When all the gnomes are kidnapped, Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp), the guardian of all the gnomes in London, swoops in to investigate with his trusty, long-suffering helper/partner Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), while Gnomeo and Juliet join up to help find their gnome clan.

Sherlock instantly suspects his nemesis Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou), whom he thought he vanquished in a great museum caper.

Their race around London looking for clues follows the format of British crime films like “Snatch” as the team encounters various seedy characters of the dolls and ornaments underground, including the Barbie madam of a doll museum, Irene (Mary J. Blige), armies of Asian-inspired waving cat figurines and various hench-gargoyles.

Depp’s voice performance as the quirky Sherlock Gnomes is unrecognizable and rather uninspired. The true standout among the voice performances is Demetriou as the demented, devious Moriarty, who takes the form of an adorable, but evil little pie boy figurine — sort of like if Bob’s Big Boy wore less clothes, had less hair and sported a devilish grin and cackle.

There are some fun bits and bobs to be found in the amusing enough “Sherlock Gnomes.” But the overall picture doesn’t have the kind of true wow factor that would make this one stand out from the rest of the pack.

‘Sherlock Gnomes’


Rated PG for some rude and suggestive humor.

Running time: 89 minutes