No mys­tery; it’s a samey se­quel

West Lothian Courier - - The Weekend Ticket - Sherlock Gnomes (U)

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

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