Defying all belief, the animated movie Sherlock Gnomes — out this month on Blu-ray and streaming — is way more faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books than both of the Robert Downey Jr. movies, and in terms of giving kids a book-accurate Sherlock, it goes pound-for-pound with Jonny Lee Miller’s take on the character in Elementary and nearly gives Benedict Cumberbatch a run for his money in Sherlock. To be clear, Sherlock Gnomes isn’t a completely faithful adaptation of the famous 56 short stories and 4 novels that created a super-detective legend. It can’t be, mostly because it’s a movie about talking garden gnomes and is ostensibly a sequel to 2011’s Gnomeo and Juliet. But, what’s shocking is just how much this goofy kid’s movie cares about getting the character of Sherlock Holmes as close to his literary roots as possible.
“I hope this movie will encourage kids to explore the classic Sherlock Holmes stories,” screenwriter Ben Zazove tells Fatherly. “That was precisely our intent. There’s a reason why Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed literary character in the history of film and television. He’s such a rich and interesting character. And it all starts with those incredible stories, which make for perfect bedtime stories, in my opinion!”
Zazove might have a point, too. Though the classic Victorian Doyle stories might seem a little dry for kids, if you’ve ever read any of them to your young kids, they’re oddly soothing. (Last year, I read my infant daughter the opening pages of “A Scandal in Bohemia” when she was a few weeks old, and she stopped crying immediately and went to sleep!) Plus, the vast majority of the original Sherlock Holmes stories are relatively low on violence. In big contemporary adaptations we think of Sherlock Holmes as solving murders, but in the vast majority of the stories, there’s never a murder and the adventures mostly revolve around other cool things like secret identities, mysterious disappearances, missing photographs and of course, most famously, a ghost dog. But, the other big component of a good Sherlock Holmes story is how to demonstrate the important friendship with Watson.
For fans of the books, the only thing that’s better than seeing Sherlock solve a mystery is watching his heartwarming and sometimes difficult friendship with Watson. In Sherlock Gnomes, this relationship from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories is depicted with great care, so much so that when kids graduate to reading the classic Holmes stories on their own, they will already be primed to love them. “The director John Stevenson and I both tried to incorporate literary Easter Eggs whenever we could,” Zazove says. For example, the very first scene featuring Sherlock Gnomes finds him squaring off against Moriarty in a way that perfectly echoes the original Doyle story “The Final Problem.”
“Part of Sherlock Holmes’s immense charm is his prickly outside and his secretly warm heart,” Zazove explains. “In Sherlock Gnomes, we get to see our Sherlock transform from stoic know-it-all to empathetic friend through this adventure. Every kid knows what it’s like to be ignored; to feel like someone isn’t listening to you. And we’re trying to use that relatable feeling to remind kids that it’s important to make sure that you’re listening too; that you’re not making someone else feel ignored.”
Goofier than The Great Mouse Detective, but with a refreshingly more faithful version of Sherlock, Sherlock Gnomes is a heartfelt new animated movie that might just get your kids hooked on some of the greatest literary adventures of all time.
Sherlock Gnomes is available to stream and rent right now.