‘Sherlock Gnomes’ makes his animated case

"Sherlock Gnomes"
Juliet (Emily Blunt) and Gnomeo (James McAvoy) in “Sherlock Gnomes”

Unless you happen to be a ceramic figure stationed on someone’s lawn, it is very possible that you did not storm the box office demanding “Sherlock Gnomes,” an animated take on you-know-which detective. Those under the age of five may have a good time with it; otherwise, this is a case of filmmakers believing what they’re doing is a lot cuter than it actually is.

The movie actually is a follow-up to “Gnomeo and Juliet,” which obviously had a similar idea. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt supply the vocals for those characters again; they team up with Holmes, who has the voice of Johnny Depp, to find whoever has been stealing gnome figures across London. (Yes, only the big mysteries for this group.)

That plot isn’t especially gripping – again, unless you’re a gnome – so it’s up to the surrounding trappings to carry the picture. As was the case with the previous movie, Elton John songs get a big workout here. There’s also musical room for Mary J. Blige, who’s part of a voice cast that includes such other notables as Michael Caine, Maggie Smith and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

If there weren’t so many cartoon features exhibiting so much creativity these days, “Sherlock Gnomes” might play more cleverly for older viewers. Particularly with the Disney-Pixar output, other moviemakers are generating projects with appeal for all ages … encompassing the subtle wisdom applied to much of the humor.

“Sherlock Gnomes” is anything but subtle, with those behind it apparently believing that casting gnomes in familiar roles would be sufficient. That’s understandable to a certain extent, since “Gnomeo and Juliet” met with a certain amount of success. That’s the catch with a sequel, though, and such franchises as “Cars” and “Despicable Me” have been able to overcome it by changing up their plots and characters.

Not so much with “Sherlock Gnomes,” though. Admittedly, such characters as Sherlock, Dr. Watson and even the sleuth’s true love Irene have been added, but the feel is much the same as that of “Gnomeo.” That even goes for the soundtrack, since Elton John sounds also figured in heavily before.

For all the talent it gathers, “Sherlock Gnomes” ends up dwarfed by many other animated films of recent times. Still, kids may like it – and if you’re a parent, that might be enough.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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