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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sherlock Gnomes is the follow-up to 2011's Gnomeo & Juliet. It introduces the titular detective (voiced by Johnny Depp), the "sworn protector of London's garden gnomes," to the star-crossed lovers from the first film. When nearly all of the city's gnomes go missing, Sherlock and his partner, Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), are on the case, with Gnomeo and Juliet (James McAvoy and Emily Blunt) along to help rescue their friends and family. Expect more action and peril than in the original: A few gnomes are injured, maimed, or even smashed by the main villain, characters take part in action-packed chases and pursuits, and there are potentially frightening gargoyles and a stampede of rats. There's also a little romance (not just between Gnomeo and Juliet, but also between supporting characters), including kisses and flirting; one gnome likes to wear a thong swimsuit (putting his buttocks on display), and another sits on the toilet. Language is mostly insult words and a few swear stand-ins ("fudge buckets!") and rude jokes. Families who see the movie together can discuss its themes of teamwork, friendship, and equal partnerships.
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What's the story?
In SHERLOCK GNOMES, Sherlock Gnomes (voiced by Johnny Depp) -- the "sworn protector of garden gnomes" -- and his partner, Watson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), investigate gnome-nappings carried out by the villainous Moriarty (Jamie Demetriou). Moriarty is fatally wounded during a big confrontation, and Sherlock and Watson believe they've saved the day for good. Meanwhile, the garden gnomes from Gnomeo & Juliet move from the country to London, where they get settled in their new, much smaller garden. After the group's two leaders, Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith) and Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine), announce their retirement, they appoint Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) as their successors. The pair disagree over the best way to lead, and soon a new outbreak of gnome-nappings puts their relationship to the test. After everyone in their garden goes missing, Gnomeo and Juliet force Sherlock to let them join his mission to figure out what's happened to all of London's gnomes.
Is it any good?
Aimed at young kids, this amusing but unsurprising sequel offers an easy-to-follow introduction to Sherlock Holmes' sleuthing genius. Depp voices the master of deduction (here named Sherlock Gnomes) with just the right amount of detached arrogance, and Ejiofor's Watson is appropriately patient and long-suffering. The missing gnomes mystery is intriguing, but the secondary drama surrounding Gnomeo and Juliet's relationship stress may fall flat with younger audiences -- especially considering how happy the couple was at the beginning of the story. Some of the jokes and one-liners are clearly targeted at adults (like when a male character demands not to be called "Tiny D"), and Mary J. Blige's performance as Irene Adler (who sings the mature post-breakup song "Stronger Than I Ever Was"), is going to go above kids' heads. That said, Blige's cameo as a Barbie-esque doll is one of the movie's highlights, and Demetriou's clever-and-crazy Moriarty is reminiscent of Andrew Scott's take on the villain in Sherlock.
Blunt's Juliet is a fine example of owning up to your mistakes, displaying courage under fire, and recognizing that a true partnership requires trust and communication. McEvoy's Gnomeo is good-hearted and utterly in love with his gnome mate, but he's got slightly less to do than Juliet, who's by Sherlock's side for most of the action. The romantic subplot between two other gnomes isn't as compelling as the original's love story, but the action-adventure is definitely a bigger part of the film. It's fun to hear executive producer Elton John's music, too. Ultimately, this is a cute family pick the kids will enjoy -- but probably not more than once.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether any of the characters in Sherlock Gnomes are role models. If so, which ones, and which character strengths do they demonstrate? How are teamwork and courage important to the story?
Were any parts of the movie scary to you? Why or why not? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
Why do you think Sherlock Holmes is such an enduring/popular character in pop culture? What do you think of this movie as an introduction to the famous literary figure?
What are the movie's messages about friendship and romantic relationships? What does Juliet mean when she says that she knows you don't "need" a man to be happy but that the "right partner makes you stronger"?
- In theaters: March 23, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: June 12, 2018
- Cast: Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Johnny Depp
- Director: John Stevenson
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some rude and suggestive humor
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