Going into any animated “kids film” you have about 50/50 odds. Some animated films look great, are beautifully animated, and have clever writing that appeals to both young and old. And then there’s the other segment of animated fare which caters to children almost exclusively and leave nothing for parents to enjoy. Those films are a test in patience and usually something to be enjured rather than enjoyed.
Thankfully, Sherlock Gnomes is the former. Sherlock Gnomes is both beautifully animated and cleverly written. It was a delightful surprise at my local multiplex.
After the events of the last film, the man and woman neighbours got married (we presume) and moved to a flat in London to start their new life together. After all of the Gnomes are set up in the new garden, Gnomeo and Juliet are announced the new leaders as their parents retire. Soon Juliet becomes consumed with making the garden beautiful which leads Gnomeo feeling like he comes second. He decides a great romantic gesture will help and leaves the garden to find Cupid’s Arrow, their flower.
He soon runs into trouble and Juliet comes to his rescue, but unbeknown to them someone steals all of the other gnomes in their garden while they’re gone. It’s then that Sherlock Gnomes and his often overlooked partner Watson, who are sworn protectors of garden gnomes in London, arrive. The duo have already been tracking down a number of other disappearances or garden gnomes city wide.
As stated previously, Sherlock Gnomes is beautifully animated. The human characters in the film, while mostly only background and secondary to the story, were animated realistically and with very lifelike motions. It looked like they might have even been done with motion capture as they were very realistic. The interior and exterior environments and the city of London were also excellently done.
The movie runs at a steady pace and is filled with humour. The pacing and style of Sherlock Gnomes makes the film feel like a spiritual sibling to Toy Story. In addition to the gnomes, there are a wide variety of various dolls, toys and other clever character designs in the movie.
One thing that was appreciated is that there was a lot from the movie trailer wasn’t actually in the movie. That was a very nice departure from the tendency of the funniest moments of most movies being spoiled in trailers. There was actually a brilliant one-liner in the trailer for Sherlock Gnomes, which cracked me up on my computer screen months before the premiere, that wasn’t even in the movie. It was also refreshing that the plot was hinted at in the trailer but wasn’t given away. Too many times if you’ve seen the trailer, you don’t need to even see the film.
Sherlock Gnomes also had great use of music. Music from Elton John, who was also an executive producer on the film, was featured throughout the film. There was also a catchy music performance by Irene, the doll voiced Mary J. Blige, of the song “Stronger” which was created for the film. The rag doll backup dancers in the scene were also hilariously brilliant.
The weaving of the Sherlock Holmes mythos into the Gnomeo and Juliet world was well done. Characters’ names and references are cleverly scattered through the film. Even Sherlock Gnomes’ arch-nemesis Moriarty is introduced in a clever way, which I won’t spoil here.
With the sheer “hit or miss” nature of animated features, Sherlock Gnomes was definitely a hit.