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Sherlock Gnomes (2018)

Sherlock Gnomes (2018)
Sherlock Gnomes posterRating: 4.8/10 (2,888 votes)
Director: John Stevenson
Writer: Ben Zazove (screenplay by), Andy Riley (story by), Kevin Cecil (story by), Emily Cook (story by), Kathy Greenberg (story by), Rob Sprackling (based on characters by), John Smith (based on characters by), Andy Riley (based on characters by), Kevin Cecil (based on characters by), Kelly Asbury (based on characters by), Steve Hamilton Shaw
Stars: Kelly Asbury, Mary J. Blige, Emily Blunt, Julio Bonet
Runtime: 86 min
Rated: PG
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Released: 23 Mar 2018
Plot: Garden gnomes, Gnomeo & Juliet, recruit renowned detective Sherlock Gnomes to investigate the mysterious disappearance of other garden ornaments.

Sherlock Gnomes (2018)

Storyline Sherlock Gnomes: Garden gnomes, Gnomeo & Juliet, recruit renowned detective Sherlock Gnomes to investigate the mysterious disappearance of other garden ornaments.

Director: John Stevenson
Writers: Ben Zazove (screenplay by), Andy Riley (story by)
Stars: Kelly Asbury, Mary J. Blige, Emily Blunt

Review

I was hesitant about seeing “Sherlock Gnomes”, as its simple wordplay title makes it easy to dismiss. I tell you honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and frankly at the end I was surprised by how much I had enjoyed it. It is far funnier, and far more creative, than its throw-away pun of a title would suggest.

True, the story, which takes often broad comedic swipes at a well-established literary franchise, dares to ask its audience to accept the dual conceits that not only do we humans share our world with clay/ceramic garden gnomes which are actually living sentient creatures, but also that one of them is a hyper-intelligent investigator with a strong sense of duty. But once the story gets going (lead into by a Looney Tunes-esque news report), it does prove to have a surprisingly complex plot, in which there is in fact is a mystery in need of solving.

Performances of minor and supporting characters range from acceptable to very good. The leads are very well done. Depp’s Sherlock is arrogant and socially awkward yet comically unaware of this; he’s also dry almost to the point of being the “straight man”. Ejiofor readily elicits sympathy for his exasperated and put-upon Watson. McAvoy’s Gnomeo and Blunt’s Juliet are played with a good range of emotions, although in my opinion McAvoy goes further, for comedy/action effect.

With so many full-CGI movies today, especially those ostensibly meant for children, it’s easy for the viewer to get jaded and miss the details. This is unfortunate, because often the filmmakers put great detail into their films which enrich the viewing, even if those details are only seen subconsciously. “Sherlock Gnomes” is just such a movie, with often stunningly-rendered CGI. In an “over the shoulder” shot of Sherlock talking with Juliet, the side of his pointy, aquiline nose can be seen; it shows flecks and minor chips like an actual ceramic figure would have. This gives more visual weight to the scene than it would’ve had if that surface were rendered simply as a smooth plane. In another scene, we see that the apron strings tied around Juliet’s back are not three-dimensional moving objects; they are in fact rendered to look hand-painted on, as they would be on an actual garden figure. A city scene of people walking past shops is so well-rendered, for a moment I actually thought I was seeing footage rather than animation. Along with the quality of the CGI, this film also has highly creative visuals. Sherlock’s “mind palace” sequences are beautifully rendered as line-art animations.

It is this rich detail which makes the film’s one down point stand out so poorly. While the movie’s soundtrack features much music by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, this is not a musical. For me, the inclusion of what was in essence a music video in the middle of the story was very jarring. The song is performed by a doll voiced by Mary J. Blige. Her character is well-rendered, and her dialogue is nicely delivered; however her singing style combined with the over-produced music made the lyrics almost entirely unintelligible. I found myself wandering off, which was regrettable because I realized I had been missing more great visuals. In the background are very impressive “dance troupe” animations which clearly have Ziegfeld/Berkeley/Esther Williams-esque choreography. These are easy to miss but definitely deserve to be noticed.

Some weak gags in the trailer are not used in the film, to the film’s improvement; one that does remain leads to a “Hound of the Baskervilles” reference which works well.

Finally, the film’s well-placed tribute to Ray Harryhausen is to be greatly appreciated.

Overall, “Sherlock Gnomes” is a surprisingly well-executed and enjoyable comedy. Only that misplaced song keeps me from scoring it higher. This is a great movie for kids, and a creative treat for adults, especially parents.

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