TLDR: A harmless sequel, lacking in the elementary components of surprise and smart comedy. 2 stars.
I first saw Gnomeo & Juliet on a plane; my expectations for it were low. However, I found 2011’s offering to be delightfully clever and funny. It was full of Shakespearean references which made this English Ba graduate chuckle and it had plenty of heart. So, when I heard there was going to be a follow up, I was excited.
Sadly, as the film opened on an emoji-esque selfie-taking villain threatening to smash gnomes in the singsong voice of a cartoon mad man, I realised that this offering was not going to be as subtle. Then, not two minutes later, a very obvious set up for the eventual ‘big twist’ ending induced a sigh of remorse. This film wasn’t even going to try to be smart.
It proceeded to throw inane colour and noise at us for 90 minutes. The conflict in Gnomeo and Juliet’s relationship appeared out of nowhere and dissipated just as quickly. Sherlock Gnomes himself was unbearably arrogant, but lacking in the insight and genius which balance out his literary counterpart. The secondary characters from the first film largely disappeared into the background, making room for a stupid gargoyle toady, a gnome in a mankini, and a gnome stuck on the loo. These latter two ‘jokes’ were returned to ad-infinitum, despite being barely funny the first time.
When sunburnt bum cheeks and a silly accent are your go-to punchline, you know your comedy script is in trouble. Perhaps the fact that I’m three times older than the film’s intended audience is partly to blame, but I maintain that the best animated films should be just as watchable for the adults in the cinema as the kids.
I missed the one-liners and literary references which made the first film so clever. There were elements of good stuff here – Benny using Google, for example, or the alka-seltzer speedboat – but they were just enough to emphasise the lack of charm elsewhere; the exception rather than the rule.
Overall, it’s a mystery how the creators took seven years to produce such a lackluster sequel. Let’s hope there’s gnome more.