No mystery; it’s a samey sequel
From legends like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing to modern favourites Robert Downey Jr, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, there are dozens of actors who’ve taken on the challenge of playing Sherlock Holmes.
But not since Disney turned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic creation into a rodent in 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective has the famous fictional detective received such a dramatic makeover.
Here, in this animated sequel, he takes the form of a common garden gnome (voiced by Johnny Depp) recruited by a returning Gnomeo ( James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) to solve the mysterious disappearance of other garden ornaments.
Few would have been clamouring for a follow-up to 2011’s fun-but-forgettable Gnomeo & Juliet, but the tiny gang are back; this time relocating from Stratford to London.
Kung Fu Panda helmer John Stevenson – who has a weighty background in art direction and animation work – takes over behind the camera and no fewer than five writers are given story and screenplay credits.
The location change and adapting a take on Conan Doyle’s work rather than Shakespeare’s are about the only real injection of freshness as all of the best, and worst, things about the first flick get trundled out once again.
The driving force is the touching, playful bond between Gnomeo and Juliet – McAvoy and Blunt proving to be one of the finest animated couples ever seen.
There’s a distinct lack of true peril and tension as the plot is arguably even more kid-friendly than its predecessor’s.
Laughs are plentiful but it’s more titters and giggles than insides-bothering cackles you’ll be letting loose; pleasingly, though, the humour remains extremely British and makes very few concessions to American audiences.
Depp does a decent job as Sherlock, although the voice evokes memories of his horrifying turn in dud Mortdecai and he’s a long way off the finest Holmes – sorry, Gnomes – committed to screen.
Stevenson and his animation team deserve credit for showcasing Gnomes’ impressive deductive powers through black-and-white, hand-drawn sketches that stand out from the day-glow colour scheme found throughout the rest of the movie.
No matter how good, bad or indifferent this follow-up is – and it’s all three at various points – the impressive voice cast, which includes everyone from Michael Caine and Maggie Smith to Mary J. Blige and Ozzy Osbourne, and infectious Elton John musical numbers keep things ticking along quite nicely.
And while it’s no Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II or Dark Knight upgrade, Sherlock Gnomes is every bit as good as its predecessor – and works well as a companion piece.
On the case Juliet and Sherlock try to solve the mystery