Mediocre sequel to a lacklustre original, featuring the voices of Johnny Depp and Emily Blunt
While it could be argued that lacklustre 2011 animation Gnomeo & Juliet wasn't exactly crying out for a sequel, the combined clout of a near-$200million global box office take and the enthusiastic presence of executive producer Elton John (who penned the original songs) have nevertheless resulted in one. And, much like its predecessor, the even more punningly titled Sherlock Gnomes is a film which relies heavily on the talents of its A-list voice cast at the expense of any narrative invention.
This time around, Johnny Depp joins the gang (alongside returnees James McAvoy as Gnomeo and Emily Blunt as his strong-willed paramour Juliet), hamming it up as the titular detective. When the gnomes of London – to where Gnomeo and Juliet have moved from the country – begin to go missing, Sherlock and long-suffering sidekick Watson (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor) must go up against their arch nemesis, camp pie brand mascot Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou), to rescue them.
Animated London looks absolutely stunning – although not as magical as Paddington 2's picture book version – and there are a handful of successful jokes. The screenplay is also pretty on the nose with its Sherlock references and brings an effective Escher twist to the notion of his 'mind palace'. (The most recent TV theme is also heard in a couple of snatched refrains.) But, despite the vivid animation and gusto of its cast, there is no real spark on screen.
With its threadbare story, the experience is essentially a series of frenetic action sequences in and around various London landmarks – including, in one instance, an Alka-Seltzer-powered boat ride through the city's sewers. A visit to a version of Chinatown ripped almost entirely from cultural cliché is best forgotten entirely.
There's also a woeful musical number, in which Sherlock's spurned ex – a leggy, scantily-clad doll named Irene (Mary J Blige) – sings about being an independent woman, which seems to exist purely to fill time and plug the 'Elton's greatest hits' soundtrack. It is perhaps time to let the sun go down on this mediocre franchise.
General release from Fri 11 May.