Saturday, 1 December 2018

Sherlock Gnomes (2018) - Movie Review & Juliet is an absolute mess. While aided somewhat by its genuinely solid animation and a pretty choice voice cast, it feels like a Murphy’s Law situation where literally every bad decision possible was made around them. From the insanely ill-fitted soundtrack to the egregious puns to the incredibly snide attitude it carried towards its source material, it can easily stand as one of the worst family films I’ve ever sat through, if not one of the worst full stop. Because money is the root of all things unnecessary, and the original made plenty of bank at the box office, we for some reason have been given a sequel. While I struggle to figure what precisely this film is at its core, it is still a marked improvement in all the important regards.

Sure, it still has some of the lingering problems of its progenitor. The Elton John soundtrack still sounds out of place, and is largely relegated to chase music, and there’s an exceptionally jarring musical number courtesy of Mary J. Blige playing a doll version of Irene Adler. Not only that, the CG fidelity isn’t quite as crisp this time around, giving the film a slightly cheaper sheen that can cut into the more visually busy moments.

However, that very aspect ends up working in the film’s favour as, while it may not be as technically polished, it’s being used to far more interesting ends. The action beats bounce off of the highfalutin spy premise to make for some bizarre but entertaining set pieces. Not only that, there’s some experimentation with 2D animation for certain sequences, mainly to show the titular character’s deductive brain at work, that gives the film a Captain Underpants-esque aesthetic in its willingness to cut loose.

Which is surprising, considering how clear it is that the filmmakers have left all of their fucks at the door. It’s a similar vibe as something like The Nut Job 2 from earlier this year, except the clear lack of cares isn’t solely to do with the production itself. Rather, it’s do with how much is just thrown into the story to make it feature-length. On top of the main Sherlock plot, which honestly contains enough true convolution to actually qualify as such, we have Moriarty the evil pie mascot with a thing for taking selfies, a Chinatown toy district that borders dangerously on racist caricature, and distraction gnomes river-dancing on London Bridge. None of this even remotely fits, or at least it shouldn’t, but the very hard-and-fast pacing allows all these disparate elements to waft in and out of the film’s main consciousness, allowing to make their point and leave just as quickly. For a variable mish-mash, it turns out a lot better than it should.

Then again, maybe that’s because one of the few fucks given in terms of plot has to do with Sherlock, Watson, and why this film is strictly a sequel to Gnomeo & Juliet in the first place. Basically, the film takes a familiar piece of satire about Sherlock and Watson acting more like an old married couple than partners-in-crime-solving and runs with it, putting it in parallel with Gnomeo and Juliet’s relationship and how much bickering goes on between them. It’s a weird idea, especially with the completely hard-left the Sherlock/Watson dynamic takes in the third act, but it ends up working surprisingly well.

It manages to make for a better fit than the original did with Romeo & Juliet, partly because it makes an attempt to take the idea seriously but mainly because…


"A man won’t make you strong, but the right partner can make you stronger" is one hell of a coda, and as delivered by Emily Blunt showing her underappreciated talents at voice acting, it goes just far enough to actually justify this film’s existence.

 As a film in its own right, this serves mainly as a mild, pleasant diversion. The entertainment value is largely derived from how bonkers a lot of it can be, and not always in the best of ways, and it still has some gripes to be had like the initial irritation of Gnomeo and Juliet’s lover’s quarrels and the continued existence of Mankini Gnome. However, as the follow-up to a genuinely awful film that I struggle to even rationalise the existence of, this is a decent effort and certainly offers the audience a lot more value than it has any right to.

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