Film Review: Sherlock Gnomes

I want to say that I was dragged, kicking and screaming to see Sherlock Gnomes. But that wouldn’t be true. I want to claim how the involvement of Emily Blunt was enough to draw more than just a passing interest, but again, that would be a lie. I’m sure, however, that Blunt’s involvement was enough to get me intrigued but ultimately, and truthfully, I went to see it because I’d seen everything else and fancied a trip to the cinema!

Sherlock Gnomes is the follow up to Gnomeo & Juliet, a film I haven’t seen., and so, while the trailer seemed honest and amusing enough what the final film would be like, the tone and maturity of its humour and tale, was a complete unknown. Without any prior reference point, what I was letting myself in for could be absolutely anything.

The film opens by setting up the traditional good versus bad plot. The introduction of our hero – Sherlock Gnomes – and our villain – Moriarty. Moriarty, we are told, is the mascot of a pie company and as a character, he never feels like he actually fits with the visual tone of the film. The CGI animation that brings Sherlock Gnomes to life is stunning. There are times when the texture and realism of the environment and the gnomes, especially, looks so realistic that you almost forget that you’re watching something computer generated. But Moriarty has this plastic smoothness to him that is noticeable in its difference, he looks cheap and out of place and distracting. It doesn’t help either, that his personality is shaped by his voice and mannerisms. He has a sarcastic London twang that was just to reminiscence in my mind of Russell Brand. I actually spent the entire film, convinced it was Brand voicing the character and thus, unable to take it seriously. So I was slightly embarrassed when the credits correctly identified Jamie Demetriou as the source of his oration.

This inability to pick the voices continued throughout though. In a positive way, I completely missed Johnny Depp voicing Sherlock himself, the character and his actions drawing me in and becoming real in my mind. But a random ornamental deer? I’d have sworn it was being used as a random cameo for Sir Paul McCartney – only for the credits to point out that the potential Beatle was, in fact, Ozzy Osbourne!

Once you’ve fallen into the film enough to look beyond the celebrity voices and see the characters as individuals, you cannot escape the fact it is still very much a kid’s film. It never really tries to push the boundaries, and besides a few onscreen visual references, it never attempts to slide in any mature tones. Even the “Easter Eggs” that seem to litter films these days are aimed more towards Arthur Conan Doyle and his original Holmes story. But that’s all OK, it doesn’t need any extra hidden layers, because it is actually an enjoyable film. Yes, none of the jokes have much depth, or really land – there is a real sense of comic mistiming as it moves along – but it’s beautiful to look at, paced well and the story twists and turns in an interesting way.

But it’s very much a simple, shallow enjoyment because its story feels forced. It felt like it never really had a clear idea of where it was going to go as it bumbled along and subsequently, as Sherlock Gnomes charged around solving the riddles and clues, his deductions were becoming more and more impossible and improbable. You not able to even attempt to solve anything in your mind as too often the story would progress only when a piece of information you never had access to was revealed. It left the film having a slight of cheating dishonest in the back of my throat. I wanted to feel like I could play along too.

It doesn’t help either that the soundtrack to the film is both strange and intriguing. Throughout, there is a bizarre returning to the works of Sir Elton John. Famous songs reimagined and sprinkled throughout with no seeming purpose. Besides a small visual cameo of Sir Elton in gnome form, he plays no role and the use of his music nothing more than a pleasant accompaniment. But this reliance on one source is noticeable. It makes the soundtrack take a bigger role than it needs to and it made me feel afterwards that the film deserved a much better soundtrack as a result. It could have gone to town with classic, cult hits, pop culture references and really played it up and it would have added a much-needed layer to it.

Ultimately, however, I think the best way to sum up Sherlock Gnomes is to simply state that it’s “fun but not funny”. It’s a kids film, and its role in life will be as little more than a good way to keep happy a group of 5-year-olds on a wet and miserable Saturday afternoon. It just doesn’t have enough hiding underneath to lift it into the upper echelons of its genre, to make it into a kids film that adults will secretly enjoy too. It’s certainly not the despicable adventures of the Minions!

Oh, and I’m still trying to work out why Moriarty was the mascot of a pie company. I’m sure there must be an Easter egg style link to it, but unlike Sherlock, I haven’t solved the puzzle yet.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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