About seven years ago, Gnomeo & Juliet surprised an unsuspecting pubic with a pretty decent animation despite the trailers communicating an utterly disposable film was in the wings. While the story itself was a fun little riff on Romeo & Juliet, nobody really expected the movie to warrant a sequel. But here we are, but instead of calling it “Gnomeo & Juliet 2” we have Sherlock Gnomes, where many of the characters from the previous film get kidnapped and so a new protagonist enters the fray to assist the heroes. And this new character is played by…Johnny Depp? Christ, I can’t get away from this guy,
So yeah, Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) are garden gnomes who come to life whenever humans are looking right at them. They and the gnomes they lead are all moved to London by their owners, but it’s not even a day before all of them save for Gnomeo and Juliet get kidnapped. Apparently their disappearance is the latest in a string of kidnappings by the villainous Moriarty, a ceramic mascot of a pie company that has an obsession with breaking garden gnomes (roll with it). To solve the case of the missing gnomes, we have the duo of Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp) and Gnome Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor….I will give you a moment to sigh disappointingly) on hand to help Gnomeo and Juliet find their family by following a series of calling cards left all around London by Moriarty toying with the ceramic detective.
On paper, the plot is pretty damn simple as a children’s movie should be. Unfortunately the jokes are all just as simple. Not bad mind you, just forgettable. Honestly, that’s the worst thing I can say about this insipid script, besides the fact that the writer’s only other credit was the screenplay for Tooth Fairy 2, the Direct-to-DVD sequel to that one movie starring the Rock years back. And now that I’ve established what plane of crap we’re dealing with, I will at least pay this film the compliment that it’s not as horrid as the trailer initially suggested. No seriously, the final product isn’t replete with puns and fart jokes…as a matter of fact, all of the worst scenes of the trailer are not even in the theatrical American version of this film. I have no idea if the same occurred for other markets, but the worst possible version of this film is not playing in theaters right now.
That being said, the actual concept grates on me though it may have something to do with the fact that you’re mostly following Johnny Depp around for a good portion of the run time. Oh yes, just because this is a Gnomeo & Juliet sequel, doesn’t make the film’s title any less true: this is a ALL about the character of Sherlock Gnomes. His relationship with other characters, the villain, the whole scheme involving the kidnapped gnomes all relate back to Depp’s character. On one hand, he’s fine with what he’s given…I mean he’s not rambling a drunk who needs his line fed to him through a microphone. But for such a weak ass conclusion involving his character, you realize this is stunt casting of the highest caliber. And hiring Chiwetel Ejiofor to play second fiddle to the spouse-abusing dickhead is just pouring salt on an open wound (no I will not stab banging on about how much of a piece shit Depp is in real life, I’ll quit it when Hollywood stops rewarding the bastard).
But Depp’s rise to main character shunts the original protagonists played by McAvoy and Blunt to supporting character status. On one hand, this isn’t really a terrible idea. I mean their characters were based off the classic Shakespearean play except they got to live at the end, a sequel featuring their further adventures would be pointless no matter what. But by God, did this film neuter whatever chemistry they had going for them in the previous movie by forcing in a subplot where Juliet wants to take more responsibility in managing the garden thereby making Gnomeo feel neglected. It’s about as contrived as you can get to mirror a lover’s quarrel going on between the original two leads and that going on between Sherlock and Watson. At least the latter had a justifiable reason for why the two aren’t as tight as they once were, Gnomeo and Juliet’s pow-wow is just irritating.
Still, these spats are the only signs of life in the movie when it doesn’t throw you bizarro curve balls like the protagonists outrunning a bunch of racist Asian stereotypical salt shakers, cockney-accented gargoyles, and Mary J. Blige as a Barbie doll who hosts a dive bar for forgotten and broken toys or ceramic characters. Oh yeah, and she also has a song and dance number written by Sir Elton John called “Stronger Than I Ever Was.” If you’re wondering why the hell Elton FUCKING John wrote a song for this forgettable trash, it’s because his husband, David Furnish, is the producer for this film and its predecessor…which now explains why both films are replete with many of the esteemed songwriter’s classics like “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “I’m Still Standing.” Elton John’s inclusion was probably one of the film’s biggest selling points because hey…a sequel to a forgettable animated kids movie from seven years certainly wasn’t bringing in the crowds.
As for the animation itself, it’s pretty boilerplate and average. There’s nothing in here that shows any artistry or even imagination, it genuinely looks like a television quality production. Actually, scratch that, I’ve seen television shows do MUCH more with their small budget rather than this trite. Hell, a television show becoming its own movie did a better job in the animation department despite how insipid it was. So when I’m using My Little Pony as a positive example, then you know something is rotten in Denmark.
I’ve scoured my brain for something to recommend in this movie. Because after leaving the theater, I did not hate it but I didn’t care for it either. And sometimes, the latter is even worse than simply being a terrible film. Because this is just a simple time waster that passes your life between cradle and grave, and it adds nothing. Not in terms of criticism and not in terms of enjoyment. It’s just not worth your energy. Will kids like it? Fucked if I know, because none in my theater were paying attention to the damn film because they were having way more fun jumping around while their parents took a snooze. So on account that I can’t find not a single thing to recommend in this film, I’ve decided this movie simply deserves a low rating because no one will friggin’ care.
SOME OL’ BULLSHIT
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