Gnomes. They’re not your typical action heroes. But back in 2011, Gnomeo & Juliet changed all that with its pint-sized, all-action spin on the Shakespeare tragedy. And now the little guys are back in Sherlock Gnomes on 11th May, which reimagines the classic detective novels of Arthur Conan Doyle, if they were set in a back garden and everyone was made of pottery.
If that premise doesn’t get you excited already, these five reasons will…
1. There’s so much A-list vocal talent we can’t list them all…
James McAvoy and Emily Blunt didn’t need asking twice to return as the star-crossed lovers. But you won’t believe who director John Stevenson has cajoled into the vocal booth. Johnny Depp does his best upper-crust Englishman in the title role (“Holmes has been played by so many actors,” he says, “I wanted him to sound as if he was sharp-angled and his brilliance came out of clumsiness”). Oscar-nominated 12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor shows his range as the bullied Watson. And that’s before we even touch on – deep breath – Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Stephen Merchant, Matt Lucas, Ozzy Osbourne, Ashley Jensen…
2. There are zeitgeisty (and naughty) jokes galore…
With director John Stevenson inviting the cast to improvise their own jokes, there’s an off-the-cuff feel to Sherlock Gnomes – plus a fistful of gags that surf the zeitgeist, from the drone showdown to the gang’s attempts to use Google Maps (“Just follow the blue line on the ground until you find the giant red thumb tack”).
True, there are a few adult quips that will sail over your kids’ innocent heads. But they’ll snigger themselves silly at rogue gnome Mankini using flatulence to turn a muddy puddle into a jacuzzi, and performing a buttock-jiggling dance!
3. The Elton John-fuelled soundtrack
Elton handled the original movie, and he’s back with long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin for the sequel. Expect to hear classics like I’m Still Standing and Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, alongside new song Stronger Than I Ever Was, belted out by soul sister Mary J. Blige, in character as Sherlock’s fuming ex-girlfriend, Irene.
“She’s not exactly pleased to see Sherlock,” explains Elton, “and she does this huge number and dance routine, and it’s kinda like, ‘You hurt me but I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been’. Take that, basically. Mary J. Blige was an obvious person to go to for that song – and she does it brilliantly.”
4. It’s a great story
Sure, The Hound of the Baskervilles wasn’t a bad little yarn – but Conan Doyle must be kicking himself from beyond the grave that he never came up with this plot!
The movie opens with Gnomeo and Juliet moving from Stratford to a new garden in London. But when their friends all mysteriously vanish, the pair turn to Sherlock Gnomes – and his sidekick Watson – to crack the case. And so the game is afoot, in a romp that spills across the capital from Chinatown to Tower Bridge – and introduces the great detective’s dastardly emoji-faced nemesis, Moriarty.
5. The bar-raising animation
Paramount Animation are no slouches. Co-producer Elton John says that Sherlock Gnomes “is really a love letter to London”, and that’s obvious in the lovingly rendered shots of the city’s skyline and historic sites.
The team can do scary, making a swarm of paw-wagging maneki-neko cats seem as terrifying as The Walking Dead. But their greatest achievement is giving these pottery characters true personality, from Gnomeo’s gritty determination to Sherlock’s bumbling brilliance.
After 11 May, you’ll never look at gnomes in the garden centre the same way again…