It’s not really fair to judge an animated film by the misdeeds of one of its voice actors, but there’s something uncomfortable about Johnny Depp voicing the title character in this screwy sequel to 2011’s Gnomeo and Juliet.
Cast before his legal troubles in 2015, his connection with a family film carries somewhat different connotations now. But block out the cognitive dissonance and there is enjoyment to be found in his appropriately cartoonish portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, tasked here with rescuing some kidnapped garden gnomes.
The film isn’t unduly worried about plot, instead relying on a series of wild chases and some dialogue that’s altogether too pleased with itself (the occasional clever line, such as Juliet declaring “A man doesn’t make you strong, but the right partner can make you stronger”, is usually so heavy-handed in its delivery that the impact is lost).
Sharing the lead with Depp are Emily Blunt and James McAvoy as Gnomeo and Juliet, roles carried over from the first film and now part of the ensemble. They have as much chemistry as you can muster without actually appearing on screen, while Chiwetel Ejiofor is game for a laugh as Holmes’ long-suffering Watson. However, the characters are largely there to be hurled around the new London setting to the sounds of producer Elton John’s hits.
Quite why a comic retelling of Shakespeare would be followed by a take on Sherlock Holmes is anybody’s guess, but the thrown-together cast make the most of it, and there are enough laughs to satisfy the family audience it’s aiming for. Average in almost all departments, Sherlock Gnomes is a relatively painless way to kill 90 minutes if you have youngsters in tow. Those looking for true quality might want to wait for Incredibles 2.