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SHERLOCK GNOMES (U) HH HHH JOHN Stevenson's computer-animated sequel to the 2011 family comedy Gnomeo & Juliet is a lacklustre misappropriation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's private detective.

Vocal performances fall flat, including Johnny Depp's plummy take on the titular sleuth, and the script clumsily incorporates characters and phrases from the pages of the books, including one throwaway scene in a park with a slobbering bulldog, which Holmes alludes to as the hound of the Baskerville family.

"Emotion is the enemy of logic," opines Holmes. Truly, emotion has nothing to fear here.

James McAvoy and Emily Blunt fail to enliven their feuding sweethearts Gnomeo and Juliet, while Jamie Demetriou's arch-nemesis, Machiavellian pie mascot Moriarty, is starved of tasty one-liners hardbaked with madness and mischief. Sherlock Gnomes is elementary in the most unflattering sense.

HHHH H MOTHER doesn't know best - she is teetering on the precipice of a nervous breakdown - in Jason Reitman's beautifully crafted and bittersweet portrait of modern parenthood.

Charlize Theron puts in a gritty perfomance The third collaboration between the Montreal-born director and screenwriter Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar for her exemplary script for Juno, conceals poignant home truths behind trademark snappy dialogue and a mistimed sleight of hand that leaves a satisfying lump in the throat.

There is undeniable pleasure in unravelling the many layers to Reitman's delicately observed film and the flawed yet deeply sympathetic characters, who struggle to articulate their fears to each other and prefer to suffer in anguished silence.

It is not until a 21st century Mary Poppins (Mackenzie Davis) materialises in the fractured family home, and re-energises an exhausted matriarch (Charlize Theron) with an endless supply of self-help aphorisms, that an emotional dam breaks and the words and tears cascade.

Theron is the picture's steady emotional heartbeat and her raw, unselfconscious portrayal nourishes supporting cast.

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Publication:Chester Chronicle (Chester, England)
Date:May 17, 2018
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