MARCH 24, 2018 -- I like it when I can screen a child oriented film when there are children in the theater. I listen to hear if the targeted audience is reacting to the film; even if I'm not. If the children are laughing and giggling and jumping when they are cued by the film, then the film is appealing to them, even if it doesn't appeal to me. If I'm enjoying it and they aren't then obviously the studio missed the mark.


The first thing I - and every adult in the audience - noticed in Paramount Animation's latest film was the Elton John soundtrack. [Note: Paramount took over from Disney's Touchstone.] It features quite a few of his old hits as well as a few originals (including a new song by Mary J Blidge). I noticed quite a few adults, including myself, tapping ties while the music played. But after the music...stillness and quiet.

Director John Stevenson's biggest claim to fame was as director of the original "Kung Fu Panda" which was honored with an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature ten years ago. This is his second feature and boy does he miss the mark.


He cast Johnny Depp voicing Sherlock Gnomes and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Dr Watson; the two run around London rescuing kidnapped garden gnomes swiped by arch enemy Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou). After years of quiet, with Moriarty seemingly dead, gardne gnomes go missing again. This time the gnomes from the garden of Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt).


Gnomeo and Juliet weren't grabbed because they left the garden in search of a special orchid. They return in time to encounter Sherlock investigating the incident. And who is Moriarty, why he is the logo of a pie company with no explanation as to why he likes kidnapping garden gnomes. In fact, most of the film is a collection of never explained happenings and unfunny, boring gags. When we find out that Sherlock used to date Irene (Mary J Blidge), an R&B singing gnome. Her appearance is sole so she can sing the song Stronger Than I Ever Was and maybe have another shot at appearing at the Oscars next year.


None of the characters are fully developed, they simply exist with no character. It becomes quite evident that the only reason the film exists is as a showcase of Sir Elton's songs; that is evident by the fact that he is the executive producer. Don't get me wrong, for the music, it's perfect... but as an animated film this is a catastrophe.


A subdued Depp isn't even enough to perk up the script as it was in Gore Verbinski's "Rango" (2011).


"Sherlock Gnomes", as an animated feature misses the mark so badly it doesn't even cut it as a music video. It lacks the charm and humor of "Gnomeo and Juliet" and, save for the soundtrack, is just a bore.   -- GRADE D --   GEOFF BURTON